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In Memory of our Belfast Days 


At the climax of the anti-Home Rule campaign 
in the spring of 19 14, a correspondent of one of the 
Continental papers, so the story runs in Belfast, had 
the good luck to be granted an interview with Sir 
Edward Carson. Having penetrated through the 
ranks of the Ulster Volunteers, who in those days 
kept watch and ward over the Ulster leader, the 
journalist was ushered into the Council Chamber of 
the Provisional Government. He was received with 
that courtesy which Sir Edward Carson always 
extends to the Press ; but the great man gently 
remarked that, as urgent affairs demanded his 
attention, he would take it as a favour if questions 
were made as brief and concise as possible. " Certainly, 
Sir Edward," said the interviewer. " What 1 par- 
ticularly want to know is how did this Ulster trouble 
come about ! " " My dear fellow," replied Sir 
Edward, with his sweetest smile, " to explain that 
1 should have to go back in history for at least three 
centuries. It would take me about a month to do so, 
and at the end I suspect you wouldn't understand." 


I difFer from Sir Edward Carson in thinking that 
if people were given the materials they might be 
trusted to form a right judgment upon them. As 
I see it, the existing confusion springs largely from 
the fact that politicians, as well as newspaper corres- 
pondents, are striving to handle consequences in 
Ulster without any clear understanding of causes. 
Efforts to deal with the question, which take no 
account of events and developments that have shaped 
it to what it is to-day, are as futile as would be an 
attempt to remodel Europe by statesmen who were 
ignorant of what happened at Vienna in 1815 and at 
Versailles in 1871. Yet how many members of the 
British Cabinet possess even a rudimentary know- 
ledge of Ulster history of the pre-Home Rule 
era ? I question if Sir Edward Carson himself could 
state three facts in the political career of Henry 
Cooke, the greatest of his predecessors. 

I do not expect Ulster Unionists to agree with my 
conclusions, but 1 shall be well satisfied if what I have 
written induces some of them to investigate on their 
own account the evidence on which these conclusions 
are based. In the main I have taken my facts from 
Unionist writers, and, so far as I am aware, I have set 
down no historical statement that is not accepted by 
reputable authorities of all parties. In Irish affairs, 
to know all may not be to forgive all ; but, I believe, 
the deeper the knowledge one possesses, the less likely 
is one to fall into the error, all too common in Irish 


controversies, of " treating," in Lecky*s words, 
" differences of national character as innate and in- 
explicable, and national crimes and virtues as the 
materials for mere party eulogy or party invective." 

While this volume does not profess to be an ex- 
haustive record of Ulster history, such as Sir Edward 
Carson outlined to his interviewer, I have en- 
deavoured to make it more than a series of detached 
studies. Whatever faults it may have in execution — 
T am only too conscious these are legion — I have 
aimed at a certain unity of plan with the object of 
linking up present day developments with past 

The opening section is devoted to a survey of Ulster 
history, in which I endeavour to give due emphasis 
to the influences — overlooked or suppressed by the 
majority of chroniclers — that tended towards the 
unity of settlers and natives. My profound con- 
viction is — and the evidence, I hold, confirms it — 
that when the Ulster Protestant fights for rights 
which are in harmony with democratic ideals he 
instinctively turns to the Ulster Catholic for support. 

In the sections on Religion and Orangeism I discuss 
the forces which have operated, and for that matter 
still operate, against the unifying power of common 
economic needs and social grievances. 

This is followed by a study of the Carson move- 
ment, the supreme example in modern times of the 
triumph of the influences that make for division in 


In the concluding chapters I have attempted to 
analyse some qualities of the Ulster mind, as they 
present themselves to a native of Munster who spent 
the best and happiest years of his life in Belfast, 
and values, as St. Paul valued his Roman citizenship, 
the right he has acquired by adoption and sentiment, 
if not by birth, to boast himself an Ulsterman. 

J. W. G. 


I. The Verdict of History 


ipter I. 

Planters and Papists 


„ 2. 

Ascendancy in the Saddle 



When Ulster joined Ireland 



Divide and Conquer 


II. The Religious Question 

Chapter 5. 

» 7- 

Defenders of the Faith 
A Presbyterian Pope 
The Church Militant 

III. Orangeism 


Chapter 8. 

» 9- 

„ 10. 

"Old Bones and Rotten Rags" 
Treason True Loyalty 
The Protestant Boys 



IV. The Carson Crusade 

Chapter 11. A Covenant against Democracy 197 

„ 12. Sinn Fein in Excelsis 210 

„ 13. England Blocks the Way 222 

„ 14. Carson ism and Sinn Fein 237 

V . Ulster as it is 

Chapter 15. A Fighting City 253 

„ 16. The Northern Mind 275 


I. — The Verdict of History. 


The tendency of the majority of writers and speakers 
on the Ulster question is to present the issue as if it 
were perfectly simple and clear cut. On one side is 
shown the Unionist ready to die at the stake rather 
than abandon a jot of his principles or a tittle of his 
prejudices ; on the other, the Nationalist is revealed, 
ruthlessly hostile to compromise and insistent that 
in all things his will shall prevail. Destiny, we are 
told, may have ordained that these people shall dwell 
cheek by jowl ; but the gulf between them is wider 
than that which divided the Jews from the Samaritans, 
and woe betide well-meaning folk who, armed only 
with logic and reason, come between the fell and in- 
censed points of such mighty opposites. Fortunately, 
or unfortunately, no political problem is quite so 
simple as this. Strong as party discipline and popular 
prejudices may be in the North of Ireland, they are 
not strong enough to ensure that everywhere staring 
Orange shall confront hard and vivid Green. Poli- 
ticians have this in common with sensational novelists 
that they prefer to see things in terms of jet black 
or snow white and rule out vague indeterminate 
shades, though it is the existence of these shades 
that makes all the difference. If the hostile colours 
in Ulster do not blend, I believe it can be shown that 


they soften a good deal when one exammes th6m with 
the impartial lens of history instead of viewing them 
through the distorting medium of popular passion. 

Ulster professes to stand four-square to all the 
winds of Nationalism, yet even inside the province 
one finds variations and differences of which too little 
account is taken in current controversies. The Ulster 
atmosphere, for instance, is almost a negligible 
quantity in counties on the outer fringe of the pro- 
vince, like Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan. Here the 
situation is roughly that common to the rest of rural 
Ireland, in which the Nationalists are mainly farmers 
and labourers, and the Unionists a tiny minority of 
landlords, with a sprinkling of professional men. 
The opposition is that of a community to a class — a 
class, moreover, which, since the triumph of land 
purchase, has accepted defeat. Difficulties may not 
yet have been wholly composed, and a social gulf 
divides the parties, but, it is safe to say, Nationalists 
and Unionists are nearer to an understanding in these 
three counties than anywhere else in Ulster. 

One finds the other extreme on the eastern side of 
the province, where in agricultural areas scattered 
groups of Nationalists hold their own in the midst of 
an overwhelmingly Protestant population. They are 
settled for the most part on the bad lands to which 
their ancestors were driven in the days of the Tudors 
and the Stuarts ; and the Glens of Antrim, the stony 
slopes of the Mourne and the Sperrin Mountains, and 
the water-logged plain that borders Lough Neagh 
are still strong Catholic enclaves. It is a safe rule 
in the north-eastern counties that to leave the fertile 
fields for the barren hills is to pass from Unionist into 
Nationalist territory. Yet so little are prejudices 
influenced by facts that one of the commonest argu- 
ments on Orange platforms is to point to the presence 
of Nationalists on this unprofitable soil as a final 


proof of their inferior economic aptitude. In the 
central districts different conditions prevail. The 
Nationalist has indeed a monopoly of the bad lands, 
but he has also a share of the good, and, politically 
and economically, he fights on something like even 
terms. Instead of a contest between a community 
and a class one gets a clash of two democracies, and 
this clash has given rise to the Ulster question as we 
know it. 

The great achievement of the Ulster Unionist has 
been to persuade himself, and impose the belief on the 
outside world, that he is sui generis. Whatever is 
peculiar to the Northern province was, he claims, 
created by him, and applies only to him. Thus he 
makes a political asset of his " dourness " and 
'' doggedness," and the homely burr of his speech 
rings all the more sweetly in his ears because it has 
so little in common with the brogue of the South. 
He flourishes these things before the world as the 
final justification of his demand for separate treat- 
ment, conveniently ignoring the fact that they are 
equally characteristic of Ulster Nationalists, who 
instead of being an inconsiderable minority, as 
Unionist propaganda would lead one to imagine, are 
not far short of half the population of the province. 

Once it is realised that, leaving politics aside, the 
special conditions of Ulster life operate in exactly 
the same fashion on Nationalists as on Unionists, 
differentiating them from their fellow-countrymen in 
the South, but welding northern Protestants and 
Catholics into a homogeneous whole, the Unionist 
case, as it is usually presented, falls to the ground. 
Hitherto it has been the Nationalists who have been 
slowest to admit that if they take their political creed 
from Dublin the influences that count for most in 
their everyday life radiate from Belfast. To them such 
a confession seems a kind of treason to their fellows 


on the wrong side of the Boyne, and, in pubhc at 
least, they vehemently proclaim that the only differ- 
ence between North and South is a difference of 
political ideals. One can understand this sentiment, 
but it is a sentiment as far removed from the truth 
of the situation as it would be to argue that the sole 
difference between a Yorkshire miner and a Surrey 
farm-hand is that one votes Labour and the other 
Conservative. In speech, in temper, in outlook, the 
Ulsterman of all creeds contrasts more sharply with 
the natives of the other provinces than the Black 
Country does with the Home Counties ; and 
Nationalists who refuse to admit that such a difference 
exists for them, are simply playing into the hands of 
their opponents, who insist that the cleavage between 
North and South is purely along the lines of race and 
religion. However race and religion may have accen- 
tuated divisions in the past, environment in the 
present is a more potent element than heredity. 
There may not be complete assimilation, but there 
has undoubtedly been widespread modification. If 
Ulster Protestants are, as some of them love to boast, 
Scots improved by three centuries of residence in 
Ireland ; Ulster Catholics are Irishmen improved, 
or at least modified, by three centuries of contact 
Avith Scots. 

The Planters of Scottish and English birth, having 
driven out the natives, were determined, in a phrase 
which Parnell made famous in another connection, 
" to keep a firm grip of their homesteads." To that 
end they found it good policy to attribute all Irish 
discontents not to resentment against alien rule and 
shameless exploitation, but to the incurable defects 
of the Celtic race and the blighting influence of the 
Catholic religion. That racial and sectarian differ- 
ences intensified hostility between Planters and 
natives in Ulster is axiomatic, but to admit this does 


not imply, as some modern controversialists insist, 
that they were the sole factors in producing and 
perpetuating antagonism. Such an assumption is as 
stupid as it would be to argue that Lorraine's objec- 
tion to German rule was due purely to the Catholic 
prejudices of its people, or to contend that Belgium 
would speedily have bowed to the inevitable had its 
invaders been men of its own blood. 

Political conditions have changed out of all recog- 
nition inside three centuries, but human nature was 
not so different in the Stuart era that a nation accepted 
massacre and expropriation not merely with philo- 
sophic calm, but with profound gratitude. Yet, 
according to a certain school of historians, Ireland's re- 
fusal to kiss the feet of her conquerors is the final proof 
of the unfitness of the Celt to be the master in his own 
house, and stamps him as a political degenerate of 
the most hopeless kind. Froude's English in Ireland 
is one long fantasia on this theme, and men infinitely 
more fair-minded than Froude have upheld the same 
contention quite as positively if with less vindictive- 
ness and passion. 

Dr. Seaton Reid, the able historian of the Presby- 
terian Church, in his analysis of the events that fol- 
lowed the Ulster Plantation, writes of the '' fancied 
wrongs " of the Irish, and complains almost tearfully 
that they regarded the Settlers as " invaders " and 
" oppressors." It is difficult to imagine in what other 
light they could possibly have regarded them. Ireland, 
in the phrase of Sir John Davies, had been " brayed 
as in a mortar," and the most submissive of peoples 
does not take kindly to such a process. The Lord 
Deputy Chichester has left an illuminating descrip- 
tion of the methods by which he laid the foundations 
of Protestant Ulster. " I burned," he reports as if 
it were a mere matter of routine, " all along the 
Lough (Neagh) within four miles of Dungannon, and 


killed 100 people, sparing none, of what quality, 
age, or sex soever, besides many burned to death. 
We killed man, woman and child, horse, beast, and 
whatsoever we could find." Even fire and steel, 
ruthlessh^ as he plied them, did not satisfy Sir Arthur 
Chichester. " I have often said and written," he 
remarks, " it is famine that must consume the Irish, 
as our swords and other endeavours worked not that 
speedy effect which is expected. Hunger would be a 
better, because a speedier, weapon to employ against 
them than the sword." True Christianity indeed 
might have lu-ged the Irish to turn the other cheek 
to the smiter, but this type of Christianity was no 
more popular in seventeenth century Ireland than 
it is in Europe to-day. 

It is not unamusing, if anything in this blood - 
boltered tragedy can be amusing, to see how apolo- 
gists who are amazed that the natives refused to 
take extirpation kindly, resent the application of the 
same policy, even in a modified form, to anybody else. 
What was just, or at least excusable, when ordered bj- 
the English for the Irish becomes fiendish when 
ordered by the English for the Settlers. Historians, 
who have no word of reproof for Chichester, flame 
with indignation over Went worth's tyranny, though 
that tyranny in comparison with the heroic Eliza- 
bethan methods was as mild as milk. The explana- 
tion is exceedingly simple. Went worth substituted 
for the old division of English and Irish a new classi- 
fication of Royalists and Puritans, and meted out to 
the Ulster Scots, who were strongly Puritan, a little of 
the medicine that had hitherto been reserved for the 
Catholic Celts. I willingly admit that W^entworth's 
policy was wholly indefensible ; all I seek to show is 
that when he struck at the Settlers in the name of the 
British Government they proved not a whit more 
tractable than the imruly Irish. They met the 


"Black Oath," as it was called, which demanded abso- 
lute obedience to the King's commands and the abjura- 
tion of the Solemn League and Covenant, with open 
defiance, and the Deputy's proposal to transport the 
colonists back to Scotland set the whole North ablaze. 
Unionists insist that from the beginning a great 
gulf divided Protestant and Catholic in Ulster, 
and declare that the Planters preferred injustice 
from England to the friendship and favour of the 
mere Irish. As a matter of fact, the first result of 
Wentworth's policy was to establish an alliance 
between Catholics and Presbyterians which proved 
so strong that it was able to dominate the Irish 
Parliament, reduce the subsidies previously voted to 
the King to one-fourth of the original grant, and carry 
a Remonstrance indicting in fifteen articles the 
methods of Government adopted by the Deputy. 
The fact that such co-operation was possible serves 
to discount many of the popular generalisations 
about Ulster divisions, and indicates that had poli- 
ticians laboured for unity half as zealously as they 
did for separation, differences of race and religion 
would not have proved insurmountable barriers. 
The alliance had in it potentialities that might have 
altered the whole course of Irish history had they 
been developed along right lines. Unfortunately, it 
failed, but it is important to note that its failure did 
not spring either from the refusal of the natives to 
accept anything less than the restoration in their 
entirety of the lands of which they had been deprived, 
or from the aggressive policy of the Catholic Church, 
the two factors which. Unionists argue, are a sufficient 
explanation of the tragic misfortunes of Ireland. On 
the contrary, it was the temptation to make Irish 
interests a pawn in the game of English parties that 
now, as in the years to come, destroyed all hope of 
an understanding. 


To the English Puritans Ireland was a useful 
weapon in their struggle against the King ; and it 
was the charge that he was willing to use Popish aid 
to strengthen his claims that served to inflame 
English popular opinion against Charles. Pym and his 
fellows looked to the Ulster Scots to supply the neces- 
sary evidence, and they did not look in vain. " The 
humble Petition of some Protestant Inhabitants of 
the Counties of Antrim, Downe, Derry, Tyrone, etc.," 
presented to the Long Parliament in 1641, may have 
been nominally an indictment of Strafford's policy, 
but it is really a Presbyterian onslaught on Prelatists 
and Papists. It is an interesting example of the 
" Ulster " spirit, as we know it in later days, that 
toleration of Catholicism should figure as the sovereign 
crime of " the children of Ishmael and Esau," as the 
Protestant bishops are politely described. " Titular 
bishops," the petition proclaims, " are by them winked 
at in the exercise of jurisdiction from foreign power, 
mass-priests are frequent, and pretend a title to every 
parish in the kingdom, masses publicly celebrated 
without controulment, to the great grief of God's 
people, and the increase of idolatry and superstition." 
Protestants who had allied themselves with Catholics 
against Strafford, sought to make the Deputy's sup- 
posed Papistical views the crowning proof of his guilt. 
The Long Parliament, as might be expected, was only 
too ready to listen to charges of this kind, if indeed 
it did not directly inspire them. Sir John Clot- 
worthy, an Antrim Presbyterian, who had been re- 
turned for an English borough, was the recognised 
spokesman of the Ulster Scots at Westminster. He 
was a member of the Commons' Committee which 
drew up the charges against Strafford, and gave evi- 
dence against him at his trial. According to Nalson, 
Clotworthy declared from his place in the House " that 
the conversion of the Papists in Ireland was only to be 


effected by the Bible in one hand and the sword in the 
other," and though this statement has been denounced 
as " a Royahst calumny," it was thoroughly in keeping 
with the sentiments of the Puritans who were anxious 
to rouse Protestant prejudices against the Monarchy. 

The attitude of Parliament in seeking to force 
anti-Popery measures on the King precipitated the 
Rebellion of 1641. The Irish believed, and speeches 
in the Commons warranted the belief, that the 
popular party in England was bent on extirpating 
Catholicism as the prelude to a new confiscation. No 
serious historian now contends that the Rebellion was 
planned as a massacre. It suited the political passions 
of the time to present it in this light, and such is the 
tragedy of Irish affairs that political ends are still be- 
lieved to be served by using the charge to intensify 
party and sectarian hatreds. The strongest proof 
that racial and religious animosity was not the 
dominant motive of the rebel leaders is the fact that 
when the outbreak took place, and for the best part 
of a month afterwards, no attack was made on the 
Scots who constituted five-sixths of the Protestant 
population of Ulster. On this point contemporary 
evidence is final. Colonel Audeley Mervyn, in a 
report presented to the House of Commons in June, 
1642, states that — ■" In the infancy of the Rebellion 
the rebels made open proclamations, upon pain of 
death, that no Scotchman should be stirred in body, 
goods, or lands, and that they should to this purpose 
write over the lyntels of their doors that they were 
Scotchmen, and so destruction might pass over their 
families." The same officer relates that he read a 
letter, " sent by two of the rebels, titulary colonels. 
Colonel Nugent and Colonel O' Gallagher . . . which 
was directed to ' Our honourable friends, the gentle- 
men of the never conquered Scotch nation.' " 

In the actual fighting quarter was freely given by 


the rebels until the Lords Justices issued orders to 
refuse it ; and, Lecky adds, " the Irish leaders in 
most cases did their utmost to restrict the horrors of 
the war, and it is also certain that in a great measure 
they were successful." If on the Irish side there 
were outrages as appalling as disgraced any Jacquerie, 
atrocities as bad and worse were perpetrated by their 
opponents, who were supposed to be disciplined 
soldiers. It was not the Irish Catholics, but English 
Puritans, who made the struggle a war of religion ; 
and when in 1643 the King agreed to a truce with the 
Irish, his action was denounced by Parliament on the 
ground that Papists " under pretexts of civil con- 
tracts would continue their anti-Christian idolatry." 
The methods adopted by God-fearing English soldiers 
to uproot belief in this idolatry are recorded in their 
own words. Sir William Cole thus succinctly des- 
cribes the work of the troopers under his command in 
Ulster — " Starved and famished of the vulgar sort, 
whose goods were seized on by this regiment, 7,000." 
Sir Henry Tichborne wrought such havoc in the border 
districts that " there was neither man nor beast to 
be found in sixteen miles between the two towns of 
Drogheda and Dundalk ; nor on the other side of 
Dundalk, in the County of Monaghan, nearer than 
Carrickmacross — a strong pile twelve miles distant." 
It was not merely rebels taken with arms in their 
hands to whom no quarter was given. General Preston 
describes the soldiers as " destroying by fire and 
sword men, women, and children without regard to 
age or sex." Coote declared he liked the " frolic " of 
one of his soldiers w^ho headed the line of march with 
a baby spitted on the point of his pike ; and, according 
to Nalson, " If anyone who had some grains of com- 
passion reprehended the soldiers for this unchristian 
inhumanity they would scornfully reply ' why nits 
will make lice ! ' " When the Bishop of Meath in a 


sermon preached in Dublin in 1642 ventiii-ed to plead 
for mercy to Irish women and children, an English 
officer was so outraged that he promptly resigned his 

It is the simplest thing in the world to compile 
lists of outrages committed by both sides, but popular 
as this method has been, and indeed still is, it leads 
nowhere. In my opinion it is much more important 
to realise the fact, overlooked or ignored by most 
popular commentators, that in the course of the 
struggle all parties changed sides not once, but, in 
most cases, several times. If, as Ulster politicians 
still assert, the Rebellion was a wanton massacre 
which dug an impassable gulf between natives and 
settlers, how does it come that in the fighting that 
followed Ulster Presbyterians were found in alliance 
with Royalists and Irish against the forces of Parlia- 
ment ? Forty years before the siege which is still 
the great event in Ulster history, Derry suffered for 
five long months a strict blockade which its people, 
wedded as they are to the commemoration of historic 
anniversaries, have conspired to forget. On this 
occasion the town w^as held by Parliamentary repub- 
licans under Sir Charles Coote who had abjured the 
Covenant, and it was besieged by a combination of 
Royalists, Ulster Presbyterians, and Irish Catholics 
who, for the time being, had sunk their differences. 
It would be folly to urge that anything remotely 
resembling unity of purpose or principle existed 
amongst these strangely assorted allies. Their co- 
operation was purely a piece of political tactics, and 
was designed less with a view to serve Irish interests 
than to meet the needs of parties in Great Britain. 

The Ulster Settlers stood by the Scots in their 
quarrel with the Long Parliament, and were 
denounced in consequence by no less a man than 
John Milton as " a generation of Highland thieves 


and red-shanks who, being neighbourly admitted 
... by the courtesy of England, to hold possessions 
in our province, a country better than their own, 
have with worse faith than those heathen, proved 
ungrateful and treacherous guests to their best friends 
and entertainers." The prevalent view is that Ulster's 
action was inspired by detestation of the execution 
of the King, but it is obvious from the " Representa- 
tion " drawn up by " these blockish presbyters of 
Claneboy," as Milton termed them, that they were 
less troubled by the fact that Cromwell and his fellows 
had " garred kings ken they had a lith in their necks " 
than by the opposition of the Independents to Presby- 
terian Government and, particularly, to the Solemn 
League and Covenant. The unpardonable sin of the 
" sectaries," according to the Ulster divines, 
was that they " endeavour to establish by law an 
universal toleration of all religions which is an avowed 
overturning of unity in religion, and so repugnant 
to the Word of God and the two first articles of the 

This was the point on which Milton fastened, and 
this extract from his Observations remains, after the 
passage of three centuries, perhaps the wisest con- 
tribution that has been made to the solution of the 
religious side of the Ulster controversy. " The 
Covenant," Milton declares, " enjoins us to endeavour 
the extirpation first of Popery and Prelacy, then of 
heresy, schism and profaneness, and whatsoever shall 
be found contrary to sound doctrine and the power 
of godliness. And this we cease not to do by all 
effectual and proper means ; but these divines might 
know that to extirpate all these things can be no 
work of the civil sword, but of the spiritual, which is 
the Word of God. No man well in his wits, en- 
deavouring to root up weeds out of his ground, 
instead of using the spade, will take a mallet or a beetle. 


Nor doth the Covenant anyway engage us to extirpate 
or prosecute the men, but the heresies and errors in 
them ; which, we tell these divines and the rest that 
understand not, belongs chiefly to their own function 
in the diligent preaching and insisting upon sound 
doctrine, in the confuting not railing down errors, 
encountering both in public and private conference, 
and by the power of truth, not of persecution, sub- 
duing those authors of heretical opinions, and, lastly, 
in the spiritual execution of Church discipline within 
their own congregations." 

The Ulster Scots agreed no better with Puritan 
saints than they had done with Royalist sinners or 
Irish heretics. " We are now," they complained in a 
paper challenging the authority of Parliament, 
" called by your soldiers ' seditious fellows ' ; our 
nation is styled ' a base and treacherous nation 
which you will ere long make a province of ' ; our 
oaths are no more accounted than ' the bark of a 
dog.' " Having refused to take the " Engagement," 
as it was called, which demanded the swearing of 
allegiance to " the Commonwealth of England as 
now established, without King or House of Lords," 
a hue and cry was raised against " all delinquent 
and scandalous ministers." They were excluded 
from their pulpits, their stipends were sequestered, 
and, finally, in March, 1651, an Act of banishment was 
passed against them. This measure was so rigorously 
enforced that by the summer of that year only six or 
seven remained in the province, and these were forced 
to lie in hiding, " preaching in remote or private 
places, where the people willingly meet them." 

It was arranged that the deportation of the pastors 
should be followed by the expulsion of the flock. The 
Rump Parliament had little in common with Strafford, 
yet, curiously, it was Strafford's methods it favoured 
in dealing with the Ulster question. Ulstermen to- 


day, who acclaim Cromwell to the skies as the only 
statesman whose handling of the Irish problem was 
logical, coherent, and effective, conveniently forget 
that the Protector designed that their ancestors 
should be the first to experience the full rigour of his 
policy. The germ of the Cromwellian Confiscation 
was the proposal, put forward in 1653, to remove " all 
the popular Scots " out of Ulster to districts in 
Munster where there was no hazard of their insurrec- 
tion against the Government," and "where," as the 
official proclamation put it, " they may not be 
capable of doing that mischief which they give us 
much cause to believe they only want power and 
opportunity to practise in the place where they now 
are." Elaborate conditions were laid down guaran- 
teeing the deportees lands proportionable to the 
value of the estates held by them in Ulster, appointing 
surveyors and valuers, and arranging convoys and 
escorts. To show that the Government were in 
earnest a list was published of two hundred and sixty 
persons, " including," according to Reid, " all those 
who by their known attachment to monarchial and 
Presbyterian principles, and by their station and 
influence, were most obnoxious to the reigning 
faction." These were required within a specified time, 
and under certain penalties, to accept the terms of 
the Declaration. Fortunately for the Ulstermen, the 
Rump Parliament was dissolved before the proclama- 
tion was enforced, and the Scots, having professed 
their readiness to give security for their good be- 
haviour, Cromwell, who had enough trouble on hand, 
suspended the operation of the scheme, though, as 
is shown by instructions issued to the Lord Deputy 
and Council as late as 1656, it was not definitely 
abandoned. In the closing years of the Protectorate 
Presbyterianism, as a result of Cromwell's policy of 
providing a counter-check to the influence of other 


denominations, increased its power in Ireland. But 
its leaders, though they made the most of their oppor- 
tunities to obtain supremacy over Episcopalians and 
Anabaptists, never forgave the Cromwellian abjura- 
tion of the Covenant, and to them, to quote Patrick, 
Adair, " this Government, though now flourishing 
and pretending some owning of religion, yet it was 
iniquity at bottom." 

After Cromwell's death the Ulster Presbyterians 
took an active part in the intrigues for the restoration 
of the monarchy, not indeed through any fanatical 
devotion to the theory of divine right, but in the vain 
hope that Charles who had accepted the Covenant 
under duresse in Scotland, would of his own free will 
compel his subjects of all creeds to conform to prin- 
ciples which personally he detested. Charles gave 
fair words, but nothing else ; and once he was firmly 
seated on the throne he lost no time in declaring his 
policy. While two Archbishops and ten bishops were 
consecrated in one day in St. Patrick's Cathedral — an 
event, according to Dr. Mant, probably without parallel 
in the history of the Church — troops of horse were sent 
to break up Presbyterian synod meetings ; and the 
ministers who a few months before had lorded it over 
Episcopalians, found themselves to their disgust no 
less than to their dismay, '' numbered with Papists 
and fanatics," in the proclamation prohibiting un- 
lawful assemblies. It is a strange commentary on 
" Ulster's unbroken record of loyalty " that Lord 
Caulfield in a letter to Primate Bramhall should 
declare — " In these unhappy northern quarters — 
those whom we esteem most dangerous are the 
Presbyterian factions who . . . preach the authority 
of their kirk to be above that of the Crown and our 
dread sovereign. I have myself discoursed with 
divers of their ministers both in public and private, 
who have maintained that the kirk hath power to 


excommunicate their kings ; and when the oaths of 
allegiance and supremacy were administered here, 
one of them told me that we had pulled down one 
Pope and set up another." 

Jeremy Taylor, who for his sins was made bishop 
of Down in 1661, declared " the country would be 
very well if the Scotch ministers were away, at least 
some of the prime incendiaries. They talk of resisting 
unto blood, and stir up the people to sedition. . . . 
They threaten to murder me. ... It were better for 
me to be a poor curate in a village church than a bishop 
over such intolerable persons." . . . But Jeremy 
Taylor was by no means as mild a man in action as 
this plaintive appeal would suggest, or as tender of 
the honest scruples of opponents as he professed to 
be in his Liberty of Prophesying, His record in Down 
goes far to confirm the story that in later years he 
instructed his secretary to procure all the copies of 
his early plea for toleration — written when the 
Church was under the harrow of the Puritans — and 
made a bonfire of them in the market square of 
Dromore. He drove harder against the Noncon- 
formists than any other Irish bishop, and lives 
in Presbyterian memories as the typical persecuting 
prelate. Long before the Act of Uniformity led to 
ejections in England, practically all the Presbyterian 
ministers in Ulster had been expelled from their 
manses, and Taylor could congratulate himself on 
having dealt faithfully with the " sad race of 
Dissenters," or, as he called them in one of his sermons, 
" wild asses in the wilderness." His view of their 
incorrigibility was confirmed by the appearance in 
his diocese of the famous soldier of fortune, Colonel 
Thomas Blood, who, having fought against the 
Long Parliament for the King, was hatching plots in 
Ireland in connection with some of Oliver's old 
soldiers to restore the Cromwellian regime. One of the 


conspirators, an ejected Presbyterian minister named 
William Lecky, was a brother-in-law of Blood, and 
early in 1663 it was arranged between them that 
they should repair to Ulster and enlist the other 
ejected ministers by hanging out the Blue Banner of 
the Covenant. Neither Blood nor Lecky seems to 
have been the type of man whose arguments were 
calculated to make converts. They looked, according 
to Patrick Adair, '' more like trepanners than any- 
thing else ; " and with one or two exceptions those 
whom they approached in Ulster, however eagerly 
they desired to restore the Covenant, declined to have 
anything to do with " these so despicable persons." 
The plot which aimed at the capture of Dublin 
Castle and the seizure of the Duke of Ormonde, was 
betrayed by an informer. Blood managed to make 
his escape, but Lecky and the other conspirators 
were laid by the heels. In the opinion of the Govern- 
ment the real danger lay in the North. An order was 
given to disarm the Presbyterians, " which was 
vigorously, closely, and suddenly executed " ; and 
urged by Jeremy Taylor, the Dissenting ministers, 
whom he had denounced on wholly insufficient 
evidence as being " all more than consenting " to 
Blood's plans, were swept into jail, and after some 
months' rigorous imprisonment received instructions 
" to depart the kingdom." For the most part they 
withdrew to Scotland where two at least of their 
number who had been implicated in Blood's Plot 
were killed in the ill-starred Pentland Rising. Later, 
however, the cloud of persecution lifted, and Charles, 
who was personally in favour of toleration, granted 
in 1672 a yearly subsidy known as the Regium 
Donum to eke out the salaries of the Ulster Dissenting 

The Presbyterians increased greatly in strength as 
a result of the influx of Scottish Covenanters, who 


fled to Ulster to escape the terrors of the " kiUing 
times," and also of Huguenots banished from France 
by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Trade is 
said to have increased, but I have been able to dis- 
cover few signs of that prosperity which modern 
Ulster claims has always been the proof of the superior 
merits of her political and religious creeds. On the 
contrary, in the last year of Charles's reign I find the 
ministers of the Laggan Presbytery announcing to 
the other presbyteries their intention of emigrating 
to America, " because of persecutions and general 
poverty abounding in these parts, and on account 
of their straits." 

Later generations have scoffed at the " Declaration 
for Liberty of Conscience " issued by James II. shortly 
after his accession, but to the Irish Dissenters of that 
day it came as a heaven-sent boon. Reid admits 
that it " restored peace to Ulster," and put an end 
to the disturbance caused by the violence of the High 
Church party against the Nonconformists, " but," 
he adds very characteristically, '^ the Presbyterians 
generally forgot their past sufferings from the Episco- 
palians and cordially joined with their recent per- 
secutors in opposing the rising ascendancy of the 
Romanists." This union culminated, as everyone 
knows, in the heroic defence of Derry and the victory 
of the Boyne, which are still for Ulstermen the epical 
events in their history. To them the Williamite 
wars represent the triumph of Protestantism, or, as 
they would put it, of true religion over degrading 
superstition. This may be so, but they represent also, 
and this is economically more important, the defeat 
of the last attempt of the Irish to recover by force 
of arms the lands wrested from them by the Planters. 
The struggle, which under various forms had extended 
over a century, concluded with a victory for the 
Settlers all along the line, for, on the death of William 


III., it was estimated that " there did not remain in 
the hands of Cathohes one-sixth of the land which 
their grandfathers held, even after the passing of the 
Act of Settlement." 

To ensure that Protestant Supremacy should never 
again be challenged the Penal Code was devised, " a 
machine," in Edmund Burke's scathing words, " of 
wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for 
the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a 
people, and the debasement in them of human nature 
itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity 
of man." At last it seemed as if the ideal of the 
Northern settlers were to be realised. It was no 
longer a question whether Catholicism would be 
dominant in Ireland, but whether it would survive 
as a faith. " The law," an Irish Lord Chancellor 
declared, " does not suppose any such person to exist 
as an Irish Roman Catholic " ; and Swift described 
the native Irish as " harmless as women and children, 
pow^erless to hurt, and doomed to certain disappear- 
ance in one or two generations." The Ulster Presby- 
terians had never made any secret that this was the 
consummation at which they aimed. They were 
foremost in demanding that the " ferocious acts of 
Anne " should deserve their reputation for ferocity, 
and their representatives in Parliament endorsed by 
their votes the most atrocious provisions of the Code. 
But they were soon to discover that the very men 
who were enlisting their aid against the " common 
enemy " designed to reduce them to impotence by 
means of the instrument which had been fashioned to 
grind the Catholic Irish to powder. 

So little are the facts of Irish history understood, 
even in Ireland, that it is almost universally assumed 
that the Revolution of 1688 ensured the triumph of 
the Ulster Protestants. As a matter of fact it ushered 
in the darkest chapter in their history, a record of 


humiliation, oppression, and degradation which is 
paralleled only by the sufferings of the Catholic Irish 
of the same period. King William may have delivered 
the Protestants of the North from '' Popery, brass 
money, and wooden shoes," but this deliverance 
brought in its train evils that to those who experienced 
them far outweighed its benefits. For a century 
from the Jacobean Plantation the Settlers had been 
striving to maintain their hold on the land as against 
the claim of the original owners. If the Williamite 
Revolution decided this issue in their favour it raised 
other issues of no less vital importance which for the 
space of a hundred years kept Ulster in a ferment, 
and the effects of which have not yet wholly dis- 
appeared. The Whig Revolution meant the over- 
throw of the divine right of kings, but it meant also 
the triumph of oligarchy. In Ireland, even more than 
in England, the oligarchs, having disposed of the 
danger from above, were determined that there 
should be no challenge to their supremacy from below. 
By the Penal Laws they had forged fetters that 
shackled helplessly the limbs of the Catholics, and 
not the least remarkable of their achievements was 
to rivet these fetters on the necks of the Presbyterians 
who had helped them to reduce the Irishry to serfdom. 
To the land-owning and Episcopalian aristocracy 
who held the reins of power in Ireland throughout 
the whole of the eighteenth century, Ulster Presby- 
terians were anathema not merely on account of 
their religious creed, but because, under the leases 
granted to their ancestors in Plantation times, they 
enjoyed a measure of tenant-right which, in Palmers- 
ton's jingling epigram, owners of the soil then, as in 
later days, held to be " landlord wrong." The influx 
of Covenanting refugees from Scotland at the end 
of the seventeenth century had strengthened the 
Presbyterian influence enormously. Archbishop Synge 



estimated that no fewer than 50,000 Scottish famihes 
had settled in Ulster in the years that followed the 
Revolution ; and the Presbyterians boasted that 
over the whole of Ireland their numbers were at least 
equal to those of the Episcopalians, while in the 
northern province they had a vast majority. Their 
consciousness of their strength is revealed in a com- 
plaint by Archbishop King which shows that the 
inhabitants of Belfast, as far back as 1698, were 
already true to type. " I understand," the Arch- 
bishop wrote, " that the people of Belfast are very 
refractory and do many irregular things ; that they 
will not enlarge their church lest there should be room 
for all their people ; that they bury in spite of the 
(law) in the church without prayers, and come in 
with their hats on ; that they break the seats, and 
refuse to deliver their collections for briefs, according 
to the Order of Council, to the churchwardens." 
Instead of contenting themselves, as they had hitherto 
done, with ministering to members of their own faith, 
the Presbyterians began to win converts from other 
creeds, a proceeding which was facilitated by the gross 
neglect of the beneficed clergy. In the diocese of 
Down and Connor, for instance, the bishop, Dr. 
Hackett, had not set foot inside his charge for twenty 
years, residing at Hammersmith, where he openly 
sold the benefits and preferments in his gift to the 
highest bidder. He was finally, in 1694, deprived of 
his see as a result of the findings of an ecclesiastical 
commission ; and the Archdeacon of Down and 
the Dean of Connor were at the same time deprived 
of their offices, the first for " enormous neglect of his 
cures " and the second for " the crime of adultery, 
and incontinence of life." The commissioners left it 
on record " that catechising, visiting the sick, and 
administration of the sacraments were so neglected 
that many left the Church, and turned Presbyterians 


and Papists." And it throws a strange light on the 
spirit that animated the Establishment to find the 
commissioners stating in a letter to the Primate : "If 
we would give way to the passions and animosities 
of the clergy here against one another, who are not 
sparing in their informations against their brethren, 
I believe we might deprive, or at least suspend, one 
half of the clergy." 

While Episcopalians relied on the strong arm of the 
civil power to maintain the claims of their creed, 
the Presbyterians devised measures on their own 
account. They were charged with engaging no 
apprentices that would not attend their meetings, 
and, according to their opponents, their practice was 
'' to employ none or trade with any that are not of 
their own sort, if they can help it ; to plant their 
land with such ; and on all Juries and other occasions 
to favour such more than Justice." Another in- 
dignant divine expressed the view that '' lawn sleeves 
and caps and surplices are too mean a quarry for 
these men to fly at . . . and monarchy in general is 
the true and real grievance." But the heart of the 
matter, it seems to me, is summed up in a single 
sentence by Archbishop King. " The true point," he 
wrote, " between them and the gentlemen is whether 
the Presbyterians and lay elders in every parish 
shall have the greatest influence over the people, to 
lead them as they please, or the landlords over their 




The fear that religious influence might be used to 
threaten the supremacy of a territorial aristocracy 
sufficiently explains why the Episcopalians, having 
trampled on Catholicism with the aid of the Presby- 
terians, should rank their allies with the " common 
enemy." Sectarian animosity was at best purely a 
subsidiary reason. There was no real desire to make 
Presbyterians abjure their faith, any more than there 
was to convert Catholics to Protestantism. In 1711, 
eight years after the " Act to prevent the further 
growth of Popery " was passed, we find Archbishop 
King stating in a letter to Dean Swift : "we shall, 
I believe, have some considerations of methods to 
convert the natives, but I do not find that it is desired 
by all that they should be converted. There is a 
party amongst us that have little sense of religion 
and heartily hate the Church ; these would have 
the natives made Protestants, but such as themselves, 
(and) are deadly afraid they should come into the 
Church, because, say they, this would strengthen the 
Church." The same party was as firmly resolved to 
keep Dissenters in subjection ; and the extraordinary 
thing to a modern mind is that Presbyterians were 
so blinded by anti-Catholic bigotry that they failed 
to see the trap into which they were forced even after 
its teeth had closed upon them. They would not be 
convinced that to their prelatical rulers the difference 
between them and the " mere Irish " was one of 
degree and not of kind, inasmuch as they, like the 
Catholics, held land instead of owning it. Strong as 
the Presbyterians were in numbers they had not. 


according to a contemporary estimate, one share in 
fifty of the landed interest in Ulster, and in the 
province the number of Dissenters possessing estates 
of the value of £200 a year and upwards did not at 
the highest computation exceed sixty. If the Dis- 
senters' activity in trade, and the exceptional tenures 
under which the majority of their creed held land, 
helped to differentiate them from the natives, the dis- 
tinction in the eyes of the ruling class was of no more 
significance than that which separated the bourgeoisie 
from the peasants in pre-revolutionary France. Both 
were included in the Third Estate ; and in Ireland, 
as in France, the vital policy in the opinion of those 
in power was not to raise the classes outside the 
charmed circle to the standard of the most prosperous 
amongst them, but to reduce them to a common level 
of economic helplessness and political degradation, 
with the object of eliminating the possibility of a 
successful challenge to the authority of their over- 

The methods employed against the Ulster Presby- 
terians were as simple in design as they proved to be 
effective in practice. In Queen Anne's reign, and long 
afterwards, the Irish Parliament was compelled to 
send to London heads of Bills which it was proposed 
to adopt in Dublin. These heads were submitted to 
the English Privy Council, which had power to alter 
them. When the Bill so altered was transmitted to 
Ireland under the Great Seal, the Dublin Parliament 
was obliged either to adopt or reject the measure 
as a whole. In the case of the anti-Popery Bill of 
1704 which the Presbyterians had heartily supported, 
the English Privy Council, at the instigation, there 
is reason to believe, of its Irish advisers, inserted a 
clause known as the Sacramental Test which made 
it obligatory on all office-holders, civil or military, 
to take the sacrament according to the rites of the 


Established Church within three months from the 
date of their appointment. This clause barred 
Presbyterians as effectively as Catholics from the 
public services. So rabid, however, was the Dissenters' 
hatred of Romanism that, to the unconcealed joy of 
their opponents, they made only the feeblest protest 
against the Bill. As a contemporary supporter of the 
Establishment put it, Presbyterians " were so sensible 
of the great advantages accruing by the Bill for 
suppressing the Popish interest that they have almost 
declined any further talk about it, and I see nothing 
to interrupt a good conclusion." 

As a matter of fact nothing did interrupt the " good 
conclusion." The measure which was passed into 
law remained on the Statute book until the era of the 
Irish Volunteers and Grattan's Parliament ; and as 
the first fruits of it, Presbyterians were bundled out 
of every office they held. The expulsion of Dissenters 
from the magistracy and municipal corporations was 
only the beginning. The Episcopalian " high-fliers," 
as they were popularly known, were determined to 
justify their title. They solemnly excommunicated 
Presbyterians who, having been married by their own 
ministers, declined to confess themselves guilty of 
fornication ; prosecutions were instituted in the 
bishops' courts against Dissenters for working on 
Anglican saint-days and holidays ; schools and 
seminaries in which the doctrines taught were not 
those of the Established Church were suppressed on 
the ground that they tended " to perpetuate mis- 
understandings among Protestants " ; landlords re- 
fused to allow meeting houses to be erected on their 
land, and in Presbyterian strongholds like Antrim and 
Downpatrick the churches of this denomination were 
forcibly closed in the last year of Anne's reign. 

It is little wonder that Daniel Defoe, Fwho 
championed the cause of the Ulstermen, should have 


written, " If this be the Church's method of ' remem- 
bering favours,' if this be their return of gratitude, 
let them fight for them next time that dare trust 
their temper." But the Church knew the character 
of the people it was dealing with better than Defoe. 
It was quite satisfied they would be, as Defoe doubted, 
" fools enough to stand in the gap," and for the best 
part of a century the event justified its confidence. 
Not only did the Establishment succeed in preventing 
its opponents from uniting to overthrow the system 
of economic privilege on which its prestige rested, 
but by raising the cry of " No Popery," it possessed 
the power to rally the Dissenters to its side against 
their own interests. Much has been made by later- 
day chroniclers of the touching devotion of the 
Presbyterians to the Protestant cause and their 
meekness under persecution throughout the greater 
part of the eighteenth century. To me, and the 
facts, I think, will bear out the assertion, this pity 
has always seemed singularly misplaced. Presby- 
terians submitted to oppression not because they 
loved those who despitefully used them, but because 
they hated others who were still more despitefully 
used than themselves. Though their claim was 
nominally for toleration, they would not have accepted 
toleration on the only basis on which it was possible — 
equal freedom for all. Their attitude leaves no doubt 
that they preferred the Establishment should retain 
its persecuting spirit even at the expense of Presby- 
terianism rather than that Catholicism should escape 
the doom prepared for it. But it is questionable if 
they realised the full extent of the price that would 
have to be paid. The loss of political power by the 
operation of the Sacramental Test paved the way for 
the attack on the favoured position Dissenters had 
hitherto enjoyed as holders of land ; and this, in 
conjunction with the savage laws against Irish 


industries for the benefit of English manufacturers, 
undermined the whole economic fabric. 

In the second decade of the eighteenth century as 
leases began to fall in, the landlords levied fines for 
their renewal which the tenants were wholly unable 
to pay. Cattle raising was believed to be a more 
profitable speculation than tillage, with the result 
that '' in some of the finest counties, in many places, 
there was neither house nor cornfield to be seen in ten 
or fifteen miles travelling "; and Primate Boulter on 
his visitation in 1726 " met the roads full of whole 
families that had left their homes to beg abroad." 
In this year the port of Belfast was crammed with 
ships to carry emigrants to America, hundreds of 
whom were so poor that they sold themselves as serfs 
to escape out of Ireland. " The humour," the Primate 
informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, " has spread 
like a contagious distemper, and the people will 
hardly hear anybody that tries to cure them of their 
madness. The worst is that it affects only Protestants 
and reigns chiefly in the North, which is the seat of 
our linen manufacture." Unfortunately the 

" humour " was no passing disorder but a canker 
that ate deeper and deeper. 

The history of Ulster during the greater part of 
the eighteenth century is a melancholy anticipation 
of the history of Connacht since the Famine. Between 
Christmas, 1728, and Christmas, 1729, 5,655 Irish, 
practically all of whom were Presbyterians, arrived 
in Pennsylvania alone ; and eight years later it was 
reported that 1,000 families had assembled in Belfast 
waiting for conveyance across the Atlantic. After 
the famine of 1740 the tide flowed stronger than ever ; 
and for several years the average number of emigrants 
leaving Ulster for the Plantations rose as high as 
12,000 annually. From 1771 to 1773, when Lord 
Donegall and Mr. Upton were " clearing " their 


Antrim estates, no fewer than 30,000 people, " all 
Protestants and Protestant dissenters," as they 
described themselves, set sail for America, where 
inside a couple of years they proved themselves the 
stoutest fighters in the ranks of Washington's army. 
The victory of King's Mountain, which Mr. Roose- 
velt describes as one of " the decisive battles of the 
Revolution," was won by a force of Ulstermen com- 
manded by five Presbyterian elders ; and fully half 
the names attached to the Declaration of Indepen- 
dence were those of men of Ulster stocks. 

In America the Presbyterian emigrants fought side 
by side with Catholic comrades, and served without 
complaint under Catholic leaders, to establish a 
constitution which treated all creeds on a basis of 
equality. Had they shown the same readiness to 
unite at home, the possibility is they would have 
won on Irish soil, and without the effusion of blood, 
victories as decisive in their effects as Bunker's Hill 
and Saratoga. No one who has studied the facts 
will deny that if the Americans were justified in 
resisting oppression by force, there was infinitely 
stronger justification for a rising in Ireland against 
a system under which the majority of Protestants 
and Catholics alike were robbed, persecuted, and 
degraded for the benefit of an insignificant minority. 
Yet in modern Ulster, while it is the fashion to glory 
in ancestors who fought for American independence, 
the men who sought to imitate at home the example 
of the emigrants, and establish freedom on their own 
soil, are held to be at the best deluded victims of 
imscrupulous agitators. The tyranny that ranked in 
arms the farmers of Massachussets and the back- 
woodsmen of Pennsylvania would have seemed to 
the rack-rented Irish peasant a Government almost 
Utopian in its benevolence ; and except on the 
ground that success is the only test of statesmanship, 



I have never been able to understand how it is that 
north of the Boyne to-day George Washington is a 
hero and Wolfe Tone a villain. 

The Settlers, it is claimed, by virtue of their Pro- 
testantism, turned Ulster into a garden while Celtic 
Ireland remained a wilderness ; but throughout the 
greater part of the eighteenth century one searches 
in vain for a hint of anything remotely resembling 
the idyll of a pious and prosperous race dwelling 
happily under its vines and fig-trees, which latter- 
day politicians conjure up as a true vision of life in 
the northern province in the days of the first three 
Hanoverians. One discovers instead, when one 
turns from new fictions to old facts, that great as may 
be the merits of Protestantism it contained no balm 
to heal the wounds inflicted by an intolerable land 
system and the dominance of a privileged minority. 
Between the glorious Revolution and the outbreak of 
the American War Presbyterian Ulster had to suffer 
not only the drain of emigration, but was continually 
hag-ridden by the spectre of famine. Inside the 
first thirty years of the eighteenth century the stipends 
of many Presbyterian clergy were reduced from £50 
to £15 a year ; and in 1729 Primate Boulter, in urging 
a slight increase of the scanty royal bounty to these 
ministers, declared that " by the desertion of many 
of their people to America, and the poverty of the 
greater part of the rest, their contributions, par- 
ticularly in the North, are very much fallen off." 

The most vivid picture of Ulster life of that era 
is to be found not in official records, but in Samuel 
Burdy's Life of Philip Skelton, a biography by no 
means as well known as it ought to be. Skelton, a 
native of Derriaghy, a hamlet on the outskirts of 
Belfast, was a clergyman of the Established Church, 
who, unlike the majority of his fellows, dedicated 
himself to the service of his flock in the true spirit 


of apostolic devotion. In his later years Skelton had 
one or two friendly skirmishes with John Wesley, 
but no man of his time came nearer to fulfilling the 
conditions which Wesley laid down as essential to the 
extension of Protestantism in Ireland. " Let all the 
clergy of the Church of Ireland," the great revivalist 
wrote, " only live like the Apostles, and preach like 
the Apostles, and the thing is done." Unfortunately 
for itself, the Church of Ireland in the eighteenth 
century preferred to take as its model the '' true Irish 
bishop," sarcastically defined by Archbishop Bolton 
as one who had " nothing more to do than to eat, 
drink, grow fat, rich, and die." Skelton was appoin- 
ted in 1750 to the living of Pettigo, on the borders of 
Donegal and Fermanagh, and so evil was the reputa- 
tion of his parishioners that though himself a good 
man of his hands, and a cudgel-player of such dis- 
tinction that in his college-days he was the champion 
of Donnybrook fair, he felt it necessary to enlist a 
famous boxer to serve as his bodyguard. 

Private stills, patronised impartially by Protestants 
and Catholics, abounded in Pettigo, and twenty 
gallons of whiskey were often drunk at a funeral. 
" Mr. Skelton," Burdy writes, "told me a story that 
marks clearly the savage manners of the people. 
One of the Pettigo men came up to him one day with 
joy in his eyes, and said to him : " O ! we had the 
finest drinking ever was two or three days ago ; we 
were all drinking in a field after a burial, and we 
drank two or three kegs of the strong whiskey. While 
we were drinking the last keg a poor fellow (he said, 
mimicking him) who sat on the grass near me, fell 
down on his back, and then gave a shake or two with 
his hands and feet, and stirred no more. We looked 
at him and found he was quite dead ; then we took 
an empty keg and clapt it on his breast, and shouted 
we'd have another fine drinking bout at his burial. 


Then we waked him that night ; and next day at 
the burial we drank strong whisky as much as before. 
So we had fine sport.' " 

So ignorant were his flock that they imagined from 
the number of his books that Skelton had deaHngs 
with the black art ; and though nominally Protes- 
tants, he declared, " they scarce know more of the 
Gospel than the Indians of America, so that, he said, 
he was a missionary sent to convert them to 
Christianity." Nor were their social superiors much 
better versed in the doctrines of their Church. When 
examining " persons of quality " in Sir James Cald- 
well's parlour, some of them informed Skelton there 
were two Gods, and others three Gods. Burdy adds, 
" one of them who had nothing to say, every question 
he was asked made a genteel bow, in which he was 
better instructed than in religion." In Fintona, 
Co. Tyrone, to which Skelton was preferred from 
Pettigo, the standard of religious knowledge was not 
much higher. Here his congregation was largely 
composed of Presbyterians who, attracted by his 
style of preaching, deserted their own minister, upon 
whom Skelton, as compensation for the loss of stipend, 
settled forty pounds a year which he paid out of his 
own pocket. Burdy records " an instance of the 
ignorance of the people." A woman at one of Skelton's 
examinations gave the number of Commandments 
as seven, and when asked to repeat the first began 
stuttering and stammering. " One John Patterson, a 
tailor, behind her, whispered to her ' Thou shalt have 
no other Gods but Me.' ' Do you hear, sir,' quoth 
she, ' what Johnny Patterson, a tailor body here, 
says to me ? He says I shall have no other Gods but 
him. De'il in hell take such Gods ! ' " 

No less urgent with Skelton than the problem of 
providing spiritual nourishment for the souls of his 
flock was that of providing food for their bodies. 


" Dearths," as his biographer calls them, were com- 
mon in all his parishes ; and if they did not attain 
the severity of the ghastly famine of 1740, in which, 
according to Skelton, " as many people died of want 
as fell in the massacre and rebellion of ' Forty-One,' " 
they entailed sufferings such as could not be paralleled 
to-day, except perhaps in Russia. In Pettigo, so 
acute was the distress in 1757, that people were re- 
duced to living on weeds and on sorrel boiled with 
blood drawn from living cattle. Skelton sold his 
library to buy meal for his starving parishioners, and 
the train of carts conveying the provisions had to be 
escorted by men armed with clubs, " as the people 
of the adjacent parishes strove to take it by force 
and eat it themselves ; in which they sometimes 
succeeded, for hunger makes people desperate." 
The same thing occurred at Fintona, which was an 
almost exclusively Protestant centre ; and as late 
as 1778 Skelton, who had sold his books a second 
time, and substituted a decoction of heath for the 
snuff of which he was so fond, is found appealing for 
subscriptions on the ground that the famine was 
attended in his parish by " two epidemic distempers, 
the small pox and a purple fever, that raged with 
great violence ; that from one or other of thos6 
scarce a family was free, so that in many houses out 
of seven or eight inhabitants there was not one able 
to attend the rest, or search the fields or ditches for 
sorrel and nettles to relieve a perishing parent or 
child." There is no hint that the conditions prevailing 
in Skelton' s parishes were in any degree abnormal ; 
on the contrary, starvation in a bad year seems to have 
been less the exception than the rule in rural Ulster. 
The champions of the '' garden " theory have 
strangely ignored the verdict of Arthur Young, who 
cannot be accused of a desire to belittle Protestantism, 
and whose comments on the farming system of the 


North of Ireland are more biting than anything to be 
found in Burdy's volume. " Agriculture," Young 
wrote in 1779, " is there in ruins ; it is cut up by the 
roots, extirpated, annihilated ; the whole region is 
the disgrace of the Kingdom ; all the crops you see 
are contemptible, are nothing but filth and weeds. 
No other part of Ireland can exhibit the soil in such a 
state of poverty and desolation. A farming traveller, 
who goes through that country with attention, will 
be shocked at seeing wretchedness in the shape of a 
few beggarly oats on a variety of most fertile soils, 
which, were they in Norfolk, would soon rival the 
best lands in that county." Young attributed these 
evils to the fact that the Ulster farmers were also 
weavers who divided their attention between their 
fields and their looms to the detriment of both. " If 
I had an estate in the South of Ireland," he asserts, 
" I would as soon introduce pestilence and famine 
as the linen manufacture upon it, carried on as it is 
at present in the North of that Kingdom." The 
rapid growth in prosperity that followed the grant 
of free trade, and the measures to develop the agri- 
cultural and farming resources of the country adopted 
by Grattan's Parliament, reveal clearly that some- 
thing more than the haphazard organisation of the 
linen industry was the obstacle in the path of pro- 
gress. If Young's conclusions were too narrowly 
drawn, the facts he records establish beyond dispute 
the folly of the contention that Protestantism enabled 
the people of Ulster to flourish under conditions that 
were too hard for believers in the creed held by the 
vast majority of the Irish people. 

While Young was penning his comments the Ulster 
people were themselves searching for a remedy. 
They found it, not, as the author of the Tour in 
Ireland suggested, in the concentration of weaving 
in the towns and increased emigration, but in the 


ranks of the Irish Volunteers. " England," in 
Hussey Burgh's phrase, had " sown her laws in 
dragon's teeth and they have sprung up as armed 
men." Ulster gave the impulse to Ireland, an impulse 
which she in turn had derived from the example of 
her exiled sons in America. She adopted and improved 
on the no-importation agreements with which the 
colonists had met the English Parliament's penal 
legislation ; and when at ceremonial parades the 
muzzles of her Volunteer cannon were adorned with 
scrolls bearing inscriptions such as — " Open Thou, 
our mouths, O Lord, and our lips shall show forth 

Thy praise" and "A free Trade or "British 

Ministers realised that this was the threat of Lexing- 
ton over again, with the difference that the odds were 
more heavily in favour of the force which challenged 
Ascendancy rule. 

''It is beyond a doubt," wrote the Viceroy, Lord 
Carlisle, in March, 1782, " that the practicability of 
governing Ireland by English laws has become 
utterly visionary. It is with me equally beyond a 
doubt that Ireland may be well and happily governed 
by its ow^n laws. It is, however, by no means clear 
that if the present moment is neglected this country 
will not be driven into a state of confusion, the end 
of which no man can foresee or limit." The Cabinet 
Ministers to whom Carlisle confided his views pre- 
ferred a state of confusion to an Ireland " well and 
happily governed by its own laws." 

The menace of the Volunteers forced Great Britain 
to grant nominal Independence to the Irish Parlia- 
ment, but by denying popular opinion power to 
influence that Parliament, she ensured not only the 
maintenance of her own supremacy, but the final defeat 
of the hopes of Grattan and his fellows. It is true 
that the Reformers were in no small measure to blame 
for the disaster that overwhelmed them. Grattan saw 


that the question was, " whether we shall be a 
Protestant Settlement or an Irish nation " ; but 
when it came to the test he lacked the courage of his 
convictions. Flood and Charlemont, and the terri- 
torial magnates who had obtained control of the 
Volunteers, assumed from the first that the Protestant 
Settlement was conterminus with the Irish nation, 
and were more anxious that the Catholics should 
remain under-dog than they were to clip the claws 
of the Ascendancy. They fashioned an imposing 
pyramid, but they made the fatal mistake of striving 
to balance it on its apex. The shrewdest of the 
Northern Dissenters realized that, as Abraham 
Lincoln said long afterwards, " a nation cannot exist 
half slave and half free," and were convinced that the 
fullest extension of equal rights to Catholics was the 
only guarantee that the concessions wrested from 
England would benefit the whole people instead of 
merely increasing the power of a corrupt, aristocratic 

Grattan had declared when the Volunteer movement 
was in its infancy that " the Irish Protestant 
could never be free till the Irish Catholic had ceased 
to be a slave " ; but the only Volunteer leader who 
had the spirit to act up to this democratic profession 
of faith was much more of an aristocrat than Grattan, 
and, by his office, more deeply concerned with the 
welfare of the Protestant Establishment. Frederick 
Augustus, Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, 
justified in his own person the eighteenth century 
epigram that " God created men, women, and 
Herveys." John Wesley, whom he entertained at 
the Palace, Derry, to a dinner consisting of " a piece 
of boiled beef and an English pudding," was as much 
impressed by his sermons as by his good breeding, 
and found him " exemplary in all parts of public 
worship and plenteous in good works." On the other 


hand, Jeremy Bentham, with whom the Bishop had 
many conversations, describes him as " Hberal-minded 
to the last degree," though Charlemont, it is true, 
denounced Bristol as a determined deist and an open 
blasphemer. Froude insists that the Bishop's actions 
in Irish politics were inspired by the idea of making 
himself king ; Horace Walpole, who disliked in- 
tensely " the mitred Proteus," as he called him, 
informs one of his correspondents that the Bishop 
'' has renounced all religions to qualify himself for 
being a Cardinal," believing that " as episcopacy is 
deemed an indelible character he would be admitted 
ad eundem (as they say at Oxford and Cambridge) 
into the Church of Rome." At one time this be- 
wildering prelate is flirting furiously with Nelson's 
Lady Hamilton, to whom he protests — 

" Ah, Emma, who'd ever be w^se 
If madness be loving of thee ? " 

At another, he is strenuously championing " the 
anti-episcopal schismatics called Presbyterians," de- 
claring that ''as to their political principles I think 
them, from their system of parity, and from their 
practice in most parts of Europe, infinitely more 
favourable to political liberty than ours." 

The contradictions of the Bishop of Berry's charac- 
ter are as endless as they are piquant, but his signi- 
ficance in Irish history lies in the fact that at the 
crisis of the Volunteer movement he was, as Mr. 
Erskine Childers puts it, " the one leader who spoke 
undiluted truth and sense." He saw what both 
Grattan and Charlemont lacked the wit or the ability 
to understand, that Parliamentary Independence 
without Parliamentary Reform, while it might be 
freedom in name, meant in reality a more humiliating 
subordination to the English Cabinet. He saw also 
that the only hope of carrjang Reform was to remove 


political disabilities imposed on religious grounds, 
and confront the oligarchy with a united democracy. 
For that reason he regarded Catholic Emancipation as 
essential, and his arguments found support amongst 
the Northern Volunteers. Unfortunately for Ireland, 
old prejudices were still too deeply rooted and land- 
lord influences too strong to enable the Bishop of 
Derry to succeed in his purpose of liberating, to quote 
his own words to a deputation of Presbyterians, 
" this high-mettled nation from the petulant and 
rapacious oligarchy which plunder and insult it." 

At the Volunteer Convention held in Dublin, in 
November, 1783, the moderates, though only after a 
stiff fight, succeeded in defeating the efforts of the 
Bishop to press the question of the Catholic franchise 
to the front. Flood's scheme of reform, accepted by 
the Convention, was rejected by Parliament, which 
took the high ground that it would not, as Yelverton, 
the Attorney-General, said, " receive propositions at 
the point of the bayonet." The real fear, however, 
of too many of its members was that a victory for the 
Volunteers would have meant the end of bribery by 
Castle gold. The Bishop of Derry managed at least 
to scare the respectables. " We must have blood, 
my lord, we must have blood," he exclaimed to 
Charlemont, who records the fact with shuddering 
horror. Historians ever since have been shuddering 
with Charlemont, and exalting the public spirit of the 
Volunteers who were willing to forego Reform 
altogether if they could not obtain it by constitutional 
means. But the result of their action, far from 
establishing the triumph of law, meant its abrogation. 
Nine times out of ten the " whiff of grapeshot " is, I 
agree, a remedy worse than the disease it is employed 
to cure ; but if ever there are exceptions, this was 
one. If the main reason for the failure to rise to a 
great opportunity was due to the fact that the heads 


of the Volunteers were more devoted to the interests 
of a class than to the welfare of the nation, the bulk 
of their followers do not escape the same reproach. 
They recognised for the first time in Irish history that 
the tie of a common country bound Protestants and 
Catholics together ; but in the mass they still clung 
to the belief that unity might be established not on 
the basis of the equality of all creeds, but on the 
acceptance of the political supremacy of their own 
faith. Had their rulers played up to them, the 
breaking down of religious barriers in Ireland might 
have been delayed for many a year, but their deter- 
mination to prove that divisions of creed mattered 
less to them than differences of class succeeded in 
doing what the eloquence of the Bishop of Derry, 
and those who thought with him, had failed to do. 

After the failure of the Convention and the dis- 
bandment of the Volunteers, Lord Bristol flung up 
serious politics for art and philandering. " Pour moi, 
firai mon traiii,'^ he wrote to his daughter, "and if I 
cannot be the Caesar nor the Cicero I will be a less 
splendid but a more useful citizen, the Lucullus of my 
time, the midwife of talents, industry, and hidden 
virtues." The " hidden virtues " are a rather doubtful 
quantity, in view of the Bishop's relations with Lady 
Hamilton — though he does call her " dear respectable 
Emma " — and with the equally notorious Countess 
von Lichtenau, mistress of Frederick William II. of 
Prussia. But he served art well as the generous 
patron of Flaxman ; and when Napoleon's generals 
were raiding the treasures of Rome to enrich Paris, 
the collections of the Bishop were spared, as a result 
of a petition signed by over three hundred artists, 
who pointed out that for forty years the greater 
part of his income had gone to encourage artistic 
effort. In later years the Bishop of Derry deserted 
Ireland for Italy, where he devoted most of his 


energies to denouncing the French revolutionaries in 
language that would have shocked Jeremy Bentham 
as a Liberal as much as it would John Wesley as a 
Methodist. One sample extracted from a letter 
addressed " A son Excellence y Miladi Hamilton " must 
suffice. '' Hip ! Hip ! Hip ! Huzza, Huzza, Huzza, 
for dearest Emma ! Those doubly damn'd miscreants, 
first as French, secondly as Rep., have thrown 
doublets, and within these few days have been beat — 
ay, completely beaten twice." 

The Earl of Bristol was a Renaissance figure born 
into an unsympathetic age, and he not only acted 
but dressed for the part in a coat of crimson silk or 
velvet, a white hat edged with purple, purple 
stockings, and a black sash spangled with silver, which 
the Italians fondly believed was the orthodox costume 
of an Irish bishop. Amongst his letters is one written 
in 1798, in which he sought to persuade Pitt that if 
he were appointed British Minister to Rome he could 
" wrench the Republic from the hands of its merciless 
French taskmasters." He admits, however, quite 
frankly to his daughter that his real object was to save, 
if possible, from sequestration, " a large mosaick 
pavement, sumptuous chimney pieces for my new 
house, and pictures, statues, busts, and marbles 
without end." In a sentence that might have been 
penned by Browning's Bishop of St. Praxed's, he 
implores his daughter to bring pressure to bear on Pitt 
so that he may not lose his '' Titians, Raphaels, dear 
Guidos, and three old Carraccis — Gran Dio ! che 

The " French tygers," to whom the Bishop 
would have given short shrift, proved themselves 
more effective propagandists of the creed of 
racial and religious equality in Ireland. I admit 
that the Irish Executive by its resolve to resist 
Parliamentary Reform at all hazards had helped to 


prepare the ground for the new seed ; and Wolfe 
Tone, a much more formidable leader of revolt than 
the Bishop of Derry, saw to it that the budding plant 
did not wither for lack of nourishment. It was the 
French Revolution, however, that gave the impetus, 
and. Tone insists in his Autobiography, " the citizens 
of Belfast were the first to raise their heads from 
the abyss and to look the situation of their country 
steadily in the face." " Long convinced in their own 
minds," he continues, " that to be free it was necessary 
to be just, they cast their eyes once more on the long- 
neglected Catholics, and profiting of past errors, for 
which, however, they had not to accuse themselves, 
they determined to begin on a new system, and to 
raise the structure of the liberty and independence 
of their country, on the broad basis of equal rights 
to the whole people." Like all men who have 
achieved great things in politics, Wolfe Tone did not 
so much create a new situation as divine possibilities 
in the existing state of affairs which, with the trans- 
forming energy of genius, he shaped to his own ends. 
On his first visit to Ulster in July, 1791, he records in 
his Diary that Thomas Paine' s Rights of Man was 
already " the Koran of Blefescu," as Tone nicknames 
Belfast in his private correspondence. In this connec- 
tion I may mention that Tom Paine's Deism was a 
sore stumbling block to Ulster Republicans who were 
also good Presbyterians. Mary M'Cracken, the sister 
of the rebel leader who commanded at the Battle of 
Antrim, maintained to her dying day — and she lived 
well into the middle of the nineteenth century — that 
the Age of Reason was written by the orders of the 
British Government and fathered on Tom Paine in 
order to create prejudice against the author of the 
Rights of Man, All Dissenters, however, were not so 
rigid in their orthodoxy. Tone, amongst the note- 
worthy incidents of his first Belfast visit, refers to a 


" curious discourse with a hairdresser, one Taylor, 
who has two children christened by the priest, though 
he is himself a Dissenter, merely with a wish to blend 
the sects." 

With the eye of a born political strategist, Tone 
saw that the moment was ripe to convince Dissenters 
and Catholics alike that they had, as he put it, " but 
one common interest and one common enemy ; that 
the depression and slavery of Ireland was produced 
and perpetuated by the divisions existing between 
them, and that, consequently, to assert the inde- 
pendence of their country, and their own individual 
liberties it was necessary to forget all former feuds, 
to consolidate the entire strength of the whole nation, 
and to form for the future but one people." The 
Argument on behalf of the Catholics^ which in 1791 he 
addressed to the Ulster Dissenters, had an effect on 
Ireland not unworthy to be compared with that 
created by Paine's Common Sense in America. Like 
Paine, Wolfe Tone expressed what tens of thousands 
of his countrymen dumbly felt ; and it may be said of 
the Argument on behalf of The Catholics, as Sir George 
Trevelyan has said of Common Sense, " the extra- 
ordinary success of this famous pamphlet proved, if 
it needed proving, that the power of authorship is 
as much in the reader as it is in the writer." 

Because Tone urged an alliance of Catholics and 
Dissenters to secure Parliamentary Reform, while 
his real objects were, as he himself states, " to subvert 
the tyranny of an execrable Government, to break 
the connection with England, the never-failing source 
of our political evils, and to assert the independence 
of my country," he is described by historians of the 
school of Froude as a political hypocrite and an un- 
principled intriguer. But the facts, as every impartial 
investigator has shown, leave no doubt that had 
Reform been granted Tone, in urging revolution, 


would have been a voice crying in the wilderness. 
Nor is it at all certain that in these circumstances he 
would have continued to preach revolt as a sacred 
duty. His Autobiography reveals him not as a 
fanatical doctrinaire, hag-ridden by a theory, but as 
an eminently practical politician who, though he 
demanded a whole loaf, never hesitated to accept a 
crust in preference to going without bread. in a 
passage in his Diary, written in 1798, Tone thus 
replies to the argument that no concessions should 
be made to Ireland, because the United Irishmen 
intended to confiscate and distribute the property 
of the landlords. " I know not," he writes, " whether 
they do or not. I am sure in June, 1795, when I was 
forced to leave the country, they entertained no 
such ideas. If they have since taken root among 
them the Irish gentry may accuse themselves. . . . 
If such men, in the issue, lose their property, they 
are themselves alone to blame, by deserting their 
first and most sacred of duties — the duty to their 
country. They have incurred a wilful forfeiture by 
disdaining to occupy the station they might have 
held among the people and which the people would 
have been glad to see them fill." 

Tone's political career from first to last was domi- 
nated by the conviction that the only hope of progress 
was, as he put it, " to unite the whole people of 
Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, 
and to substitute the common name of Irishmen in 
place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic, 
and Dissenter." Unity was the condition precedent 
not only of the Independence of which Tone dreamt, 
but of all reform worthy of the name ; and his in- 
sistence on this fact, and the measures by which he 
gave effect to it, rank him in point of statesmanship 
above all his fellows. The original leaders of the 
Volunteers had gifts denied to him, but if their tactics 


were more showy they were the tactics rather of the 
full dress review than of the battle-field. Flood and 
Grattan both desired unity, but the first would not 
have it at the price of Protestant Ascendancy, and 
the second, scared like Burke by the nightmare of 
insurgent democracy which the French Revolution 
had conjured up, shrank from pressing his demands 
to their logical conclusion. Tone, on the contrary, 
declared that for Ireland the union of Irishmen came 
first, and anything that prevented this, however harm- 
less or even laudable it might be in itself, must be 
sacrificed. His enemies have sought to make capital 
out of this " unscrupulousness," as they term it, 
but Irishmen have never failed to recognise the 
nobility of the passion that inspired him. 




In the Belfast of 1791 Tone found himself preaching 
to the converted. His difficulty indeed was less to 
stir up Presbyterian enthusiasm for the Catholic 
claims than to hold it in check. The Dissenters were 
ready to make more sweeping demands for the 
Catholics than the latter would advance for them- 
selves. It was Protestants who, in the procession 
which on 14th July, 1791, commemorated at once the 
fall of the Bastille and the formation of the Society 
of United Irishmen, carried through the cheering 
crowds that lined the streets of Belfast a green banner 
with the inscriptions — " Our Gallic brother was born 
July 14th, 1789. Alas ! we are still in embryo," and 
'' Superstitious Jealousy the cause of the Irish 
Bastille ; let us unite and destroy it." And it was 
Belfast Protestants who addressed the French 
National Assembly in these words — " If we be asked 
what the French Revolution is to us, we answer, much. 
Much as men. It is good for human nature that the 
grass grows where the Bastille stood. We do rejoice 
at an event that means the breaking up of civil and 
religious bondage, when we behold this misshapen pile 
of abuses, cemented merely by custom, and raised upon 
the ignorance of a prostrate people, tottering to its 
base, to the very level of equality and commonwealth." 
Ulster did not rely on words alone to prove her 
devotion to the new ideal of fraternity. It became 
the fashion with Protestant Volunteers to attend Mass 
in companies as a demonstration of their feelings 
towards their Catholic brethren ; and when Bruns- 
wick and the ^migr^s invaded France to restore the 


Monarchy, the Ulster towns hastened to make col- 
lections to fill the war chest of the Revolutionary 
Government. Newry, for instance, sent to Paris 
£300, Coleraine and Limavady £600, and Armagh 
2,750 livres. The defeat of the Austrians and Prus- 
sians at Valmy was celebrated in Belfast by a general 
illumination, in which one of the most-admired 
transparencies represented a gallows suspending an 
inverted crown. Amongst the mottoes which, as a 
contemporary Tory put it, exhibited " clearly the 
prevailing bias of the inhabitants," were " France is 
free, so may we — let us will it," and " May the fate 
of every tyrant be that of Capet." 

Enthusiastic Volunteers had their babies christened 
Dumouriez after the French Commander, and of one 
of these, the son of a member of the Carrickfergus True 
Blues, the Northern Star, a revolutionary organ, 
prophesied " The child must certainly, in time, be a 
patriotic soldier." Stranger still to those who know 
the later history of the Presbyterian Church in Ire- 
land, thanksgiving services for the success of the 
French arms were held in several congregations. At 
Maghera, according to the session clerk, the service 
was " sanctioned by the hearty concurrence of the 
whole worshipping society — a few individuals ex- 
cepted, on whom the breath of aristocracy had shed 
its baneful influence." Wolfe Tone himself was not 
certain if it were quite wise to design new uniforms 
for the Volunteers on the model of the French National 
Guard. His Ulster friends, however, were troubled by 
no such doubts, to judge by the letter one of them 
wrote to him at this period from Belfast : — '' We are 
going on here with boots of seven leagues, and will 
soon be at liberty and equality." Every town had 
its corps of National Guards or Sons of Liberty ; and 
members of these organisations invariably addressed 
one another as " citizen soldier." Even Masonic 


lodges caught the repubhcan fever. Lodge 730, at 
a meeting at Garvagh, Co. Deny, passed this sweeping 
resolution — " That factitious titles such as monarchy, 
royalty, serenity, excellency, etc., are ponderous and 
oppressive mountains in the great globe of despotism 
under which poor Erin sinks and groans. A word in 
your ear : Whereabouts is France at a loss for the 
want of either." Delegates of thirty lodges assembled 
at Dungannon declared — " Let every lodge in the 
land become a company of citizen-soldiers, let every 
volunteer company become a lodge of masons." 

Samuel M'Skimin, a furious Tory and a very 
cynical observer of the popular movements of his 
day, relates in his Annals of Ulster, from which I have 
borrowed a good deal, many curious incidents of this 
troubled time. Strangest of all is the narrative of 
the Kilrea guillotine, an admirable illustration of the 
practical bias of the Ulster mind. " In order that 
nothing might be wanting on the revolution breaking 
out," M*Skimin writes, '' a guillotine was made by 
a mechanic in the vicinity of Kilrea, and a list made 
out of those to be decapitated, or, as it was said, ' to 
oil first the wheels of the Revolution for the public 
good.' As in France, the properties of the wealthy 
were to have been confiscated for the benefit of the 
republic, and hence, in the language of Robespierre, 
the guillotine was to have been called the ' National 
Mint,' a phrase much applauded for the expressive 
ingenuity of the application. The Kilrea instrument 
was nearly ten feet in height, its axe sharp and heavy 
and about ten inches deep. It was moved up in a 
groove by a pulley and rope. Lead being scarce, from 
the great demand of that metal for bullets, the axe 
was loaded by a piece cut off an old mill-stone. A 
few experiments were made by beheading dogs and 
cats, which being declared satisfactory, the maker 
was said to have deserved well of his country, and the 


instrument was carefully deposited in an ark in the 
corn-mill of Lisnagrat." 

As always in Ireland when political excitement rises 
signs and omens abounded. The prophecies that 
thrilled the country on the eve of '98 bear a strange 
resemblance to the numerous stories, which have been 
passing from lip to lip since the Rising of 1916, such 
as the tale of the Connacht babe who a few hours 
after birth declared the war would end in April, 
1918, and straightway died ; and the Black Pig of 
Kiltrustan, visible only to children, whose appearance 
portends the most direful happenings. These are 
nowadays held to be inventions that appeal only 
to the unpractical Celt, and at which the hard-headed 
Ulsterman jeers. But the Northern Presbyterian of 
the last decade of the eighteenth century was quite 
as credulous as the Connacht peasant. According to 
M*Skimin, a wide circulation was obtained in the 
Ulster counties for a pamphlet entitled, " A Para- 
phrase on the Prophecies of Daniel and John," which 
revealed the " Beast " of Revelations as " absolute 
tyrannical monarchy in a hereditary line " ; and it 
was firmly believed that an animal had been foaled, 
striped like a zebra, which audibly repeated the 
following distich — 

" A wet Winter, a dry Spring, 
A bloody Summer, and no King." 

It was announced that at Dundonald, now a suburb 
of Belfast covered with red-brick villas, " a young 
maiden with two thumbs on her right hand, was to 
sit upon a large stone, and to hold the horses of three 
kings during a great battle, in which Ireland was to 
be, as it were, three times lost, but at length won. 
During this conflict the wheel of an adioining^mill 
was to be three times turned round with the blood 
of the slain. Previous to this great day the maiden 


was to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean three times, 
which, it was asserted, she had already accompHshed. 
Two common briars growing in the same neighbour- 
hood, at a considerable distance from each other, 
were also to entwine their branches before this great 
battle, which union was affirmed to have been per- 
fected — therefore civil war was believed to be at 

M'Skimin scoffs loudly at the fantastic ideals of 
the United men who '' in their inordinate love of 
French politics avowed their contempt for every 
ancient right and privilege." In a footnote he adds 
that a generation after the rebellion the advocates of 
equality in Ulster were still preaching the grotesque 
doctrine that the Irish farmer has a right to the land 
he tills. M'Skimin's abhorrence of the " levelling 
spirit " with which Wolfe Tone and his fellows in- 
doctrinated " illiterate bumpkins " is not a whit 
stronger than Froude's denunciation of the declara- 
tion of the Dungannon Volunteers that freedom 
consists in the consent of the governed to the laws 
under which they live. " They might as well have 
said," Froude comments, " that their consent was 
required to the law which would break their necks if 
they fell over a precipice." To-day the Irish farmer 
holds his land in as firm a grip as the French peasant ; 
and if " government by the just consent of the 
governed " is not yet the rule in Ireland, the despised 
doctrine of the Dungannon Volunteers has become 
the rallying cry not only of the Allies, but of the 
nations with whom they were at war. 

At the outset the stars in their courses seemed to 
be fighting on the side of the United Irishmen. 
Already they had gone far to remedy the state of 
affairs thus described by Wolfe Tone : " Our pro- 
vinces are ignorant of each other, our island is con- 
nected, we ourselves are insulated ; and distinctions 


of rank and poverty and religious persuasion have 
hitherto been not merely lines of difference, but 
brazen walls of separation. We are separate nations, 
met and settled together, not mingled, but convened 
— uncemented, like the image which Nebuchadnezzar 
saw, with a head of fine -gold, legs of iron, feet of 
clay — parts that do not cleave to one another." 
Most marvellous of all, the British Cabinet, to which 
Tone's principles of " the rights of man and the 
greatest happiness of the greatest number " were 
anathema, found itself constrained by the logic of 
events to support the Reformers against the Ascen- 
dancy party who were its agents in Ireland. Pitt 
was preparing for war with the French Republic, and 
he desired, nominally at least, to make the war a 
Christian crusade against the leagued hordes of 
atheism. But the Powers with whom he proposed to 
ally himself were largely Catholic ; and the spectacle 
of Great Britain fighting side, by side with Catholics 
to restore a Catholic dynasty, and re-establish 
Catholicism in France, while in Ireland the law " did 
not suppose such a person as an Irish Roman Catholic 
to exist," was too incongruous even for George the 
Third. Austria and Prussia might not have developed 
free institutions, but Protestantism was no more a 
badge of servitude in Vienna than Catholicism was in 
Berlin. Colonel O'Shee, who commanded an Austrian 
Brigade against Napoleon at Wagram, told his fellow- 
townsmen of Kilkenny that in contrast with the 
system which prevailed in Ireland a man's creed did 
not exclude him from military command either in 
Austria or the German States. Downing Street was 
reluctantly driven" to the conclusion that something 
must be done, though it was well aware that the 
decision would be anything but palatable to College 
Green, where a prominent supporter of the Govern- 
ment had recently succeeded in having a petition in 


favour of the Catholic claims kicked out of the House 
on the ground that it was the production of " shop- 
keepers and shop-hfters." 

Lord Westmorland, who, like many Viceroys 
before and since, was the puppet and not the master 
of his nominal subordinates, shrieked warnings of 
irremediable disaster. He argued, as men like him 
have always argued, and for that matter still argue, 
that the clamour was wholly due to Jacobin agitators. 
" The violent attacks and threats of the democratic 
leaders of the Catholics," he declared, " have forced 
the clergy into a co-operation with their plan, and the 
gentry into an acquiescence." With a cynical 
frankness in which Tory historians see nothing to 
reprobate, Westmorland defended the perpetuation 
of the system under which, in his words, " Great 
Britain manages the Protestants, and the Protestants 
the Catholics." The fatal thing in Westmorland's 
eyes about the policy of the United Irishmen was not, 
as latter-day Unionists insist, that it would have 
meant the substitution of a Catholic for a Protestant 
Ascendancy, but that it " must end shortly in the 
abolition of all religious distinctions, and in a union 
of those distinctions." Unlike Wolfe Tone, the 
question with the Viceroy was not whether this 
would benefit Ireland, but whether it would serve the 
ends of English policy. Westmorland warned the 
Cabinet : " If such a union were once formed, and 
if the Protestants, after being forced into submission 
to it, should, contrary to their expectations, find 
themselves secure in their possessions without British 
protection, is it not to be feared they might run into 
the presenL State-making mania of the world, and 
form a government more to the taste and wishes of 
the people than their present aristocratical Constitu- 
tion ? " Thus the Viceroy admitted the truth of the 
contention of the United Irishmen that English 


dominance in Ireland was designed to benefit a class 
instead of a nation, and maintained the interests of 
this class only in so far as they ensured the stability 
of alien ride. 

In 1793 it was for the moment more important to 
placate European opinion than to gratify Protestant 
Ascendancy, so, in spite of the appeals of Westmor- 
land and the threats of Fitzgibbon, George the Third 
not only reconciled it with his sensitive conscience to 
confer the electoral franchise on Catholics, but was 
exceedingly sympathetic towards the Catholic deputa- 
tion which waited upon him to present a petition 
drafted — of all people — by Wolfe Tone. The dele- 
gates travelled to London by way of Belfast, where 
the townspeople who had assembled in force drew 
their carriage in triumph through the streets. It is 
little wonder that Hobart, the Chief Secretary, should 
have raged against Belfast as " the source of all the 
mischief," and declared " our security is in the army, 
and if that is not kept up, the levellers of the North 
will overawe every part of the Kingdom." 

The Ulster Presbyterians were by no means over- 
whelmed by the magnanimity of the Government in 
consenting to give Catholics the vote. Like Wolfe 
Tone, they held that the concession w^as a shadow 
void of substance, unless accompanied by a genuine 
measure of Parliamentary Reform. Nor did it require 
extraordinary insight to divine that the franchise 
was largely a farce in a Parliament, where out of 300 
seats 212 were absolutely controlled by individuals, 
and could be bought and sold in the open market. 
In 1792 seventeen boroughs had no resident electors, 
sixteen had but one, and ninety had thirteen each. 
At Bannow, County Wexford, not even a house was to 
be found in the constituency. When the notice of an 
election arrived it was posted on the ruins of an old 
chimney which rose out of a drifting desert of sand. 


So Presbyterians, while welcoming the Catholic 
right to vote, made it clear they regarded the Act as 
only a paltry instalment of their real demand. As 
the Synod of Ulster put it, ''a reform in the repre- 
sentation of the Commons House of Parliament is 
essentially necessary to the perfection of the con- 
stitution and the security and maintenance of public 
liberty." In the same resolution these divines ex- 
pressed '' their earnest prayer that the time may 
never more return when religious distinctions shall 
be used as a pretext for disturbing society, or arming 
man against his neighbours ; that intolerance of 
every kind may be trodden under foot ; and every 
equally good subject shall be equally cherished and 
protected by the State." 

What the Presbyterians dreaded as a disaster was 
the mainspring of the policy of Fitzgibbon and the 
Irish Executive ; and the course of events now made 
it possible for them to develop it with a success that 
exceeded their fondest hopes. In particular, the 
war which they feared at the outset might prove their 
undoing by compelling the British Cabinet to concede 
the Catholic claims, became by skilful management 
their salvation. However little the priests and the 
Catholic aristocracy might like the substitution of 
Feasts of Reason for the service of the Mass in Notre 
Dame, the great majority of their people had no 
enthusiasm for a struggle in which they were asked to 
restore Catholicism in France by men who were vowed 
to keep Irish Catholics hewers of wood and drawers 
of water. Dissenters, onthe other hand, were openly 
hostile to the war. According to a report of the Irish 
House of Lords, prayers were actually offered up 
in Presbyterian churches for the success of the 
French arms, and the Ulster people were urged to 
petition for peace. " What is the navigation of the 
Scheldt to us ? " inquired the authors of an address 


widely circulated in Belfast. " Why should we 
interfere because France, like Cromwell, has killed a 
guilty king ? Let the rich who want war pay for it. 
Trade in all its branches is paralysed. Yet Ireland 
has no cause of quarrel with France." In the light of 
what has happened in recent years it is not difficult to 
understand how this situation was developed by the 
Ascendancy. " Get on with the war," was the cry 
of Fitzgibbon and his colleagues ; and on their lips 
getting on with the war meant, as in our own time, 
the prohibition of any scheme of reform in Ireland. 

Jacobin influences were then as much a trump card 
as " German gold " or Bolshevism was destined to 
be a century and a quarter later. Not only was it the 
baneful principles of Republican France that induced 
Presbyterians and Catholics to join forces, but when 
in Cavan and Meath in the beginning of 1793 bodies 
of Protestants led not by United Irishmen, but by 
Ascendancy landlords, " pillaged, plundered, and 
burned without requiring any mark of guilt but 
religion," the outbreaks were as a matter of course 
attributed to the intrigues of French emissaries. 
Why the French, who presumably were working in 
conjunction with the United Irishmen, should deli- 
berately try to run counter to them by stirring up the 
passions the Reformers were most anxious to allay 
is one of the things that Dublin Castle never con- 
descended to explain. Its theory was that any 
weapon that could be used against the popular move- 
ment was good enough for its purpose, and the result 
certainly justified its wisdom. 

It is impossible to say whether Pitt, undistracted 
by the complications of a European war, would have 
pursued a different course in Ireland. Intellectually, 
I imagine, his inclinations were rather towards the 
moderation of Grattan than the extremism of Fitz- 
gibbon. He saw Ireland, however, only in relation 


to other and, in his view, more important problems, 
and was content to shape his poHcy in accordance 
with the recommendations of " the man on the spot," 
without enquiring too closely whether the " man on 
the spot " was speaking for the whole people or 
purely for his own class. Burke, who knew the facts 
as Pitt could never hope to know them, summed up 
the situation in three sentences. " It is not to know 
Ireland to say that what is called opposition is what 
will give trouble to a real Viceroy. His embarrass- 
ments are upon the part of those who ought to be the 
supporters of the English Government, but who have 
formed themselves into a cabal to destroy the King's 
authority, and to divide the country as a spoil amongst 
one another. Non regnum sed magnum latrocinium — 
the motto ought to be put under the harp." 

The events that followed the Whig Coalition with 
Pitt in 1794 and the appointment of Fitzwilliam as 
Viceroy confirmed the truth of Burke's words. 
Volumes have been filled with details of the con- 
troversies of the Fitzwilliam affair, but the vital facts 
can be stated in a few words. Fitzwilliam was for a 
policy of appeasement in Ireland, and, in keeping 
with what is now a commonplace of constitutional 
government, believed that a change of methods must 
be accompanied by a change in the personnel of the 
Executive. Pitt was nominally for a change in 
methods, but he was adamant against a change in 
men. Having failed to assert his views Fitzwilliam 
was recalled, and his departure was marked by scenes 
of mourning North and South without precedent in 
Viceregal history. Whether Fitzwilliam would have 
succeeded in reconciling the Catholic claims and the 
Presbyterian demands with the security of the British 
Empire in war time is a question upon which it is 
futile to dogmatise. But there is, I am convinced, 
no doubt at all that his overthrow sowed the seeds of 


all the disasters that followed by establishing a belief 
in the invincibility of the Ascendancy not only in the 
minds of its members, but in those of its opponents. 

Fitzgibbon and his fellows had the best of reasons 
for assuming that no constitutional check would 
henceforth hamper the development of their schemes ; 
and the Ulster Reformers, who had up till then 
vehemently disputed the truth of Wolfe Tone's con- 
tentions, were driven to the conclusion that they 
could hope to accomplish their ends only by resorting 
to unconstitutional weapons. Grattan explained the 
Castle plot which, unfortunately, he was unable to 
counter. " Here," he told the Irish House of Com- 
mons, " is the system and the principle of the system ; 
from a system of corruption to a system of coercion, 
and so on to military executions." It was essential 
to the anti-popular party that they should not only 
defeat the Reformers, but that they should divide 
them into mutually hostile factions. Fitzgibbon 
played upon the fears of the gentry by picturing the 
Catholics as united in a great conspiracy not to obtain 
reforms, but to establish an ascendancy of their own 
by regaining possession of the estates forfeited in 
previous confiscations and restoring " the religion of 
their ancestors in its full splendour and dominion." 
Castle agents worked even more effectively on the 
prejudices of Protestants who had less to lose. In this 
case the '' old Irish," to use the phrase of the period, 
were represented not as a future menace, but as a 
present danger, and the utmost was made of the com- 
petition for holdings between tenants of rival creeds. 

If the spark that started the fires of sectarian 
bigotry in Armagh was not kindled by emissaries of 
the Government, these saw to it that the outbreak 
should not abate for lack of fuel. In a subsequent 
chapter I discuss in detail the development of 
Orangeism and the methods by which its growth 


was fostered. For the present I am concerned only 
with the more general aspects of the process by which 
a political union between a divided Ireland and Great 
Britain was substituted for a real union amongst 
Irishmen. The most biassed Orangeman readily 
admits that a union of Irishmen is the true ideal, 
and that Pitt's solution was, at the best, a pis-aller. 
He contends, however, that unity in the real sense is 
impossible ; and if pressed to state when the experi- 
ment of unity was tried and found futile, he in- 
vai^iably points to the closing years of the eighteenth 
century. Undoubtedly there was at that period an 
almost universal impulse North and South to break 
down dividing barriers and forget ancient anta- 
gonisms. And the impulse was not, as some latter- 
day politicians assert, a momentary hysteria which 
took no account of fixed and immutable facts. On 
the contrary, it rested on the solid basis of incontro- 
vertible deductions drawn from premises that could 
not be disputed. For two hundred years " old Irish " 
and new Settlers had been kept growling at one 
another, in Strafford's phrase, like " muzzled dogs " ; 
to use one to neutralise the other, while holding both 
in leash, was the aim and end of all Strafford's suc- 
cessors from Primate Boulter to Lord Westmorland. 
Only slowly did it dawn upon the mass of the Irish 
people that they had less to fear from one another 
than from the tiny minority which exploited their pre- 
judices to its own advantage ; and when at length 
they endeavoured to test this belief in practice the 
conditions were such as to render the experiment 
almost hopeless. From the moment the movement 
towards unity began all the resources, official and 
unofficial, of the party in power were flung into the 
scale against it. 

Under any circumstances it would have been no 
easy task to obliterate the memory of feuds that had 


been handed down like a sacred tradition from father 
to son through long generations, and replace the old 
doctrine of hate and division by a new gospel of 
brotherly love. As it was, the United Irishmen had 
to labour under the shadow of the sword of martial 
law, and with the promise for their converts not of a 
crown but of a halter. Their failure to effect a final 
fusion between parties in Ulster is constantly paraded 
as a proof that Irish racial and religious divisions 
constituted a problem which statesmen for their own 
sakes will do well to dismiss as insoluble. Yet the 
history of the period shows that not only had the 
United Irishmen found a solution, but that all the 
powers of the British Government were strained to the 
breaking point to prevent the successful application 
of this solution. Take, for instance, the case of the 
agrarian outbreaks in Armagh, the rock, according to 
the Unionists, which proved fatal to the hopes of Tone 
and his fellows. Here one finds religious hatred artfully 
stimulated by the very men whose claim to rule was 
that they alone were able to impose order and hold 
the balance even between rival creeds. Mr. Jephson, 
a member of the Irish Parliament, writing in 1795 
from Loughgall, the storm-centre of Orangeism in 
Armagh, admits that the outrages have left " a 
deadly, irreconcilable rancour in the'^minds of the 
lower people." " But," he adds, " it is impossible 
for the Protestant gentry to keep up the farce of 
impartiality between the parties, or to disavow the 
absolute necessity of giving a considerable support 
to the Protestant party, who from the activity of the 
two Copes have got the name of the Orange boys." 
Thus the supporters of the Ascendancy, ,with, as 
contemporary evidence makes clear, the connivance of 
the Government, deliberately preferred massacre 
and anarchy as a lesser evil than the co-operation of 
Catholic and Protestant. 


The Northern Presbyterians did not, as is often 
argued, speedily recover from their mad infatuation, 
and reahse that hostihty not friendship to the bulk 
of their fellow countrymen was for them the true 
ideal. There were undoubtedly many Ulster Dissen- 
ters who believed Reform was essential and could be 
achieved only by securing equality of treatment for 
Catholics, yet who shrank from an appeal to arms 
when the dismissal of Fitzwilliam made it certain that 
force alone would suffice to obtain concessions. And 
others who were revolutionists in theory lost heart 
in the hour of trial. Nationalist writers have some- 
times commented on the failure of the Northern 
Republicans to make good their pledges, and con- 
trasted Presbyterian performances in '98 with the 
promises of the early years of the United movement. 
This line of argument, tempting as it may be to 
controversialists, ignores, I think, the vital facts of 
the situation. All the plans of the revolutionaries 
were based on the assumption of French intervention ; 
without an invasion the leaders realised — and the 
rank and file of their Ulster followers held the same 
view — that a rising would be no more than a signal 
for an open massacre by the forces of the Ascendancy. 
The policy of the Irish Executive was to force a 
premature rising at all hazards. The scheme was 
simple, and, as the result proved, effective, but its 
legitimacy depends upon whether one considers that 
the duty of a Government is to meet discontent 
amongst its people with concessions, or whether the 
right course is to drive moderates and extremists 
alike into armed revolt. There was never any doubt 
as to which attitude Dublin Castle preferred. Camden, 
writing in 1795 of the decision of the graziers to raise 
wages and reduce the rents of potato patches, tells 
the Cabinet " both these measures were very just 
and necessary in themselves, but very improper and 


impolitic, forced, as they were, by intimidation." 
This has been the guiding rule of English politicians 
ever since. Measures of Irish reform are admitted 
to be " just and necessary," but nothing is done to 
give practical effect to them. When in despair at the 
failure of other means " intimidation " is resorted to, 
the concession, however desirable it may be on its 
merits, must be denied, because to grant it would be 
a surrender to force. 

The Irish administration was well aware that even a 
moderate measure of reform would have deprived 
the United Irishmen of the bulk of the men whose 
support constituted the driving force of the move- 
ment ; and it knew also, as George Ponsonby ex- 
pressed it, that " coercion will never do to defend the 
country against the French." But Fitzgibbon and his 
colleagues were convinced that coercion was essential 
to the triumph of a system which, as Sir John Moore 
told Grattan, would have made him a rebel had he 
been an Irishman. And on this occasion coercion, 
from the point of view of its authors, was justified by 
the results. Later generations of Ulstermen affect to 
believe it was the glare of Scullabogue barn that 
changed their ancestors' views of things ; but all the 
evidence goes to show that more potent arguments 
were the torches of Lake's Yeomanry applied to the 
thatch of Presbyterian farmhouses, and the floggings, 
half- hangings, and pitch-caps which were the approved 
Protestant methods of demonstrating that rebellion 
against English rule was really, in the Old Testament 
phrase, " the sin of witchcraft." 

This view, I know, is pleasing neither to Unionists 
nor Nationalists. The Covenanters of to-day, wrong 
as they hold their ancestors' Republican ideas to have 
been, are naturally reluctant to think that an Ulster- 
man could be bullied out of any belief he might choose 
to entertain, and their political opponents make it 


an article of faith that force is no remedy. I am 
wilHng to agree that in the long run force will not 
change convictions, but in Irish history — and the 
dragooning of Ulster in 1798 is a leading case — 
coercion has produced temporary results that to 
coercionists, who are invariably opportunists, not 
statesmen, serve to demonstrate the efficacy of their 

Those who complain that the Ulster Reformers 
were easily cowed can have but little knowledge of 
the nature of the ordeal to which they were subjected. 
For almost eighteen months before the despairing 
appeal to arms Avas made, the Protestant counties 
of the North, under the instructions of the Viceroy, 
were treated by Lake as if they were already in 
active insurrection. Camden informed the Cabinet 
that " if the urgency of the case demands a conduct 
beyond that which can be sanctioned by the law, 
the General has orders from me not to suffer the cause 
of justice to be frustrated by the delicacy which might 
possibly have actuated the magistracy," This, as 
Grattan said, was " law-making in the spirit of law- 
breaking," but, unfortunately, something more 
effective than an epigram was needed to pierce the 
joints of the Viceroy's armour. Camden, with 
Fitzgibbon as his evil genius, held rigidly on his way ; 
and Lake lost no opportunity of bettering the instruc- 
tions he had received from the Castle. Lecky quotes 
a letter which reveals the spirit that animated the 
commander charged with restoring order in Ulster. 
" I much fear," Lake wrote, " these villains will not 
give us an opportunity of breaking them in the 
summary way we all wish. You may rest assured 
they will not have much mercy if we can once begin. 
. . . Belfast ought to be proclaimed and punished 
most severely, as it is plain every act of sedition 
originates in this town. I have patrols going all night 


and will do everything I can to thin the country 
of these rebellious scoundrels by sending them on 
board the tender. . . . Nothing but terror will keep 
them in order." 

Terror Lake certainly did not stint ; and the rank 
and file of his army set themselves with whole-hearted 
enthusiasm to execute their general's plans. The 
favourite methods of persuasion adopted were half- 
hanging, picketing, which meant suspending a victim 
by one arm so that the whole weight of his body 
rested on one foot which was placed on a sharpened 
stake ; and pitch-caps, an ingenious improvement on 
the methods of the Red Indian, because the un- 
fortunate who was crowned with one of these caps 
filled with hot pitch, had to submit to a scalping 
process to free himself. House-burning was by com- 
parison a minor punishment ; and the peasant had 
every reason to congratulate himself if his blazing- 
homestead was not also his funeral pyre. The Orange 
yeomanry and the undisciplined English militia who 
were entrusted with the task of disarming the country 
acted as it was intended they should act. The 
Ancient Britons, a Welsh fencible regiment, per- 
petrated a hideous massacre near Newry, though, 
according to a militia officer who was present, " no 
opposition whatever had been given . . . and, as I 
shall answer to Almighty God, I believe a single gun 
was not fired, but by the Britons or yeomanry." 
Yet the Viceroy's comment on this murder of women 
and children was a jest about the zeal with which the 
Ancient Britons practised " the sword exercise which 
they had recently learnt." Lord Moira, from one of 
whose Ulster estates ninety-one householders had 
been driven by the Orangemen, told his fellow-peers 
who knew his record as a soldier, " I have seen a 
conquered country held by military force, but never 
did I see in any conquered country such a tone of 


insult as has been adopted by Great Britain towards 

The charge that the Executive deliberately en- 
couraged and instigated military license does not rest 
on the evidence of the opponents of the Government. 
The most damning proof of guilt is to be found in the 
indictment of Dublin Castle policy by Sir Ralph 
Abercromby, who was appointed Commander-in- 
Chief in the last months of 1797. Abercromby wanted 
troops who would in an emergency be able to oppose 
a French invasion ; he found regiments so demoralised 
by free quarters and lack of discipline that they were, 
in a phrase in his famous general order, " formidable 
to everyone but the enemy." He denounced the 
ridiculous farce of proclaiming the country in a state 
of rebellion " when the orders of his Excellency 
might be carried over the whole kingdom by an 
orderly dragoon ; " and in private letters he stated 
that the struggle was whether the character of the 
army was to be destroyed by " the violence and 
oppression of a set of men who have for more than 
twelve months employed it in measures which they 
durst not avow or sanction." In any other country 
in the world the exposure would have ruined the con- 
spirators ; in Ireland it reacted only on Abercromby. 
The Castle Junta, instead of flinging up the game, 
actually desired to impeach the " Scotch beast," as 
Fitzgibbon described him ; but, finally, it was 
decided that Abercromby should retire in favour of 
Lake, who, if a deplorably poor soldier when real 
fighting was in question, had mastered the art of 
provoking a rebellion which stronger hands and 
shrewder heads would be required to subdue. 

Lake's anxiety to oblige his employers nearly proved 
their undoing. In Ulster, where he had both time 
and opportunity fully to develop his methods of 
barbarism, the Rebellion exploded, as it was desired 


it should explode, in an outbreak which served to 
provide a pretext for ruthless repressive measures. 
In the South, notably in Wexford, the explosion came 
sooner than the plotters had anticipated, and its 
force staggered and amazed them. The peasants of 
Wicklow and W^exford were inspired less by the ideals 
of the United Irishmen than, as one of their Protestant 
leaders said, '' by the instinct of self-preservation." 
Yet lacking, as they did, organisation, arms, and 
equipment, they inflicted a series of bloody defeats on 
formidable British armies ; and country gentlemen 
and parish priests proved themselves more competent 
soldiers in the field than Lake and his captains. 

Abercromby's predictions were verified in detail, 
but the men who drove out Abercromby were skilful 
enough to turn the happenings in Wexford to their 
own advantage, by representing the uprising of a 
maddened peasantry against a campaign of outrage 
and torture as an upheaval of Catholic bigotry. 
This lie was sedulously circulated in Ulster, where 
undoubtedly it had its effect on popular opinion, 
though a study of the records does not, in my opinion, 
confirm the modern Unionist view that the rising in 
the South opened the eyes of Northern Presbyterians 
to the folly of their republican dreams. Scullabogue 
barn and Wexford bridge may have been grim 
revelations of Catholic ferocity, but the Orange 
yeomanry before, during, and after the Rising were 
guilty of excesses every whit as unpardonable against 
their fellow Protestants in Antrim and Down. British 
officers like Nugent, who in Presbyterian Ulster 
refused quarter, hanged, flogged, and tortured innocent 
as well as guilty, turned great stretches of the country- 
side into a desert by firing the houses and carrying off 
stocks and cattle, cut a strange figure when they set up 
as Christian heroes in opposition to the degraded 
savages of W'exford. And unless human nature in 


the North has radically changed, United Irishmen, 
who had experienced at first hand the tender mercies 
of the Ancient Britons and the Downshire Militia, 
were not likely to be appalled by the knowledge that 
the exertions of these warriors had provoked in 
Catholic districts reprisals in kind, more especially 
as the details of the reprisals were circulated by 
Government agents who had for years been denouncing 
the Ulster Presbyterians to whom they now appealed 
as miscreants and murderers whose doctrines had put 
them outside the pale of humanity. 



It is argued by Nationalists as well as Unionists that 
the failure of Presbyterian Ulster to offer any violent 
opposition to the Union is a proof that it had buried 
its democratic ideals deeper than ever plummet 
sounded. This, I am convinced, is a complete mis- 
interpretation of the facts of the situation. In the 
first place the Republicans lacked the power, even if 
they had the will, to oppose the measure. The leaders 
of the North who escaped the scaffold were behind 
prison bars ; the pick of their followers had been 
drafted into penal battalions in the West Indies, or 
were serving as pressed men aboard the Fleet. 
Secondly, the Ulster democrats of that period had 
sacrificed everything to accomplish the reform of the 
Irish Parliament, and with the failure of the Rising 
they realised that Reform was a forlorn hope. Ascen- 
dancy was fixed more firmly than ever in the saddle, 
and they at least felt themselves powerless to unhorse 
it. Therefore it was only natural that in the Union 
proposals many of them should see not, as Grattan 
did, " the destruction of Irish liberty," but, as 
Hamilton Rowan said, the downfall of a corrupt 
assembly and the wreck of a feudal aristocracy. This 
view was strengthened by the fact that most of the 
stoutest champions of the Ascendancy were vehe- 
mently opposed to the Union. Orange Yeomen 
marched in processions of protest, and the lodges, in 
spite of the efforts of the Government, adopted fiery 
resolutions denouncing the measure. The survivors 
of the rebels would have been less than human had 
they not chuckled over this turning of the tables. A 


popular song of the day may be taken as a faithful 
reflection of their feelings : — 

" You remember the time when each village and 

Most gaily resounded with ' Croppies lie down ! ' 
Billy Pitt changed the note, and cries, ' Down 

with them all, 
Down Croppy, down Orange, down great, and 

down small.' 
Ah, that was the way to be free." 

To assume that the Dissenters in taking the Union 
so quietly had accepted Fitzgibbonism as their creed 
is much the same as if one were to urge that the 
Orangemen who opposed the Union had suddenly 
become converts to Jacobinism. The attitude of 
the North is capable of a simpler explanation. 
Having failed to mend the Irish Parliament by their 
efforts and sacrifices the Ulstermen were not un- 
willing to see it ended, especially as the process of 
ending it was highly distasteful to a majority of those 
who had taken the lead in the fight against Reform. 
The event, however, was to prove that this assump- 
tion, attractive as it might be, was radically unsound. 
Individual members of the Ascendancy suffered by 
the Union ; and a few years after the fusion one of 
the Beresfords is found denouncing " the intrusion 
of English ideas " with a vigour not unworthy of 
Wolfe Tone. But Ascendancy as a whole benefited 
enormously. An isolated group of oligarchs could 
not have continued to defy the wishes of a whole 
nation, and must sooner or later have compromised, 
if it did not surrender at discretion. By subordinating 
its interests to those of the ruling classes in Great 
Britain the Irish aristocracy had to endure a certain 
loss of prestige, but it managed to retain its dominance 
over the Irish people, which was the possession it 



valued most. Henceforth in all its struggles it could 
rely on the backing of its fellows on the other side of 
the Irish Sea ; and when in the process of time these 
had, outwardly at least, to accept democracy, matters 
were so skilfully arranged that in the twentieth cen- 
tury it is still possible to persuade nominal Enghsh 
democrats that Ireland must remain an exception 
to the rule that government should rest on the just 
consent of the governed. 

There is no force in the contention that the Union 
was a settlement in full of the Presbyterian claims. 
As a matter of fact it left most of their real grievances 
untouched. The political concessions it offered 
proved in practice to be almost wholly illusory. If 
it conceded nominal equality in the matter of parlia- 
mentary representation between Episcopalians and 
Dissenters, the Establishment succeeded in preserving 
its monopoly ; and long after the passing of the Irish 
Church Act of 1869, at a time when the Unionist 
party depended largely on Presbyterian votes, it was 
still powerful enough to bar Presbyterians from 
sitting for Ulster constituencies. 

The Presbyterian Church, it is true, received a sub- 
stantial increase of the Regium Donum shortly after 
the Union. Rev. W. T. Latimer describes the grant in 
his History of the Irish Presbyterians as "a political 
bribe" ; and conditions were laid down for its allocation 
which enabled the Government in practice to impose a 
veto on the choice by a congregation of a minister 
whose politics might be objectionable to Dublin 
Castle. When the new Regium Donum proposals 
were finally passed through Parliament in 1803, 
Alexander Knox, not the least formidable of Castle- 
reagh's henchmen in the Union scheme, declared 
exultingly in a private letter to his master, " Never 
before was Ulster under the dominion of the British 
Crown. It had a distinct moral existence before, and 


now the Presbyterian ministry will be a subordinate 
ecclesiastical aristocracy, whose feeling must be that 
of zealous loyalty, and whose influence on their 
people will be as purely sedative when it should be, 
and exciting when it should be, as it was the distinct 
reverse before." 

The Union did less than nothing to improve the 
relations between landlord and tenant, which to those 
who looked deeper than surface appearances con- 
stituted a problem more urgent and imperious than 
any question of political reform. On the contrary, 
the authors of the Act were determined to stereotype 
existins relations ; and their successors set themselves 
to tilt the balance still more strongly against the 
occupiers of land. It is true the precedent of Lord 
Donegall's '' clearances " found no more imitators in 
Ulster on the same grandiose scale. Landlords had 
sufficient wisdom to see that an offensive on these 
lines would drive the Protestant democracy, whose 
support was essential to the maintenance of the 
Ascendancy, into the arms of its bitterest opponents. 
But as it became evident that the work of the United 
Irishmen had been undone, and the gulf grew wider 
between Protestant and Catholic — largely as a result 
of the efforts of Dr. Cooke, whose policy I review in 
another chapter — a movement took shape to deprive 
the tenants of the North of the special safeguards which 
had preserved them from the worst of the evils that 
had overwhelmed the peasantry of the other provinces. 

The Ulster Custom, by which the occupier of land 
was able to claim compensation for improvements 
effected by him, had never been relished by landlords. 
Naturally they liked it less than ever when in the 
generation that followed the Union all Ireland united 
in " a methodised war," as the report of the Devon 
Commission phrased it, to make universal throughout 
the country the tenant-right principles which had 


hitherto been the pecuhar monopoly of the Northern 
province. The Devon Commission declared, and 
landlord opinion heartily agreed, " that the effect 
of this system is a practical assumption by the tenant 
of a joint proprietorship in the land." This, in the 
opinion even of landowners who called themselves 
Liberals, was a monstrous invasion of the sacred 
rights of property, and was denounced with a fury 
which in these days is reserved for the doctrines of 
the Bolsheviks. There were few fairer minded men 
of his class than the first Marquis of Dufferin and 
Ava, but the wails and protests with which he met 
the demand for Fixity of Tenure and Free Sale enable 
one to understand the attitude of the overwhelming 
majority of proprietors to whom Dufferin was at the 
best a half-hearted advocate of a holy cause. The 
shrewder heads on the landlord side discerned that 
the most effective way of meeting the agitation 
would be to destroy the Ulster Custom altogether. 
So long as it existed it was inevitable that farmers in 
the other provinces would clamour for the protection it 
afforded, and, should they manage to secure this protec- 
tion, would use it as a lever to overthrow landlordism. 

In essentials the situation strikingly resembled that 
which followed the Williamite wars and the inaugura- 
tion of the Penal Code. Like the Revolutionary 
settlement, the Union was trumpeted as a charter of 
liberty for the Protestant Dissenters, and then 
dexterously manipulated in the hope of depriving 
them of a right which was the foundation of such 
property as they enjoyed. The Ulster Custom saved 
the North from the worst effects of the Famine, 
though there were Northerns who affected to think 
that their immunity was directly ordained by Pro- 
vidence to demonstrate to an unbelieving Ireland 
the superior merits of the Protestant faith. Nay, it 
was actually argued that the hideous visitation which 


resulted in the death or exile of one-fourth of the 
Irish race was devised by the Almighty to reveal to 
England the madness of tolerating Popery. A Belfast 
clergyman, writing in 1850, thus explains the causes 
of the Famine. " The Government," he says, " resolve 
to endow in a permanent form the fountain-head of 
Popery in Ireland — the Royal (?) College of Maynooth. 
The Universal Protestantism of Great Britain and 
Ireland revolts, and with a million and a half voices 
deprecates the measure. This is of no avail. The 
miserable minority of men in power accomplish tliis 
infatuated purpose. It is done ; and in that very year, 
that very month, the land is smitten, the earth is 
blighted, famine begins, and is followed by plague, 
pestilence, blood ! The work of encouragement to 
Popery proceeds ; the essentially Popish Board of 
Irish National Education has been doubly, trebly 
endowed and chartered ; the Popish priesthood are 
flattered, and unconstitutional, illegal titles are 
heaped upon the Hierarchy. A state endowment is 
lavishly offered to them, and, parallel with all this, 
pestilence grows and increases, famine spreads, civil 
war and rebellion stalk through Ireland." This is not 
the view of an isolated and irresponsible individual. 
I could quote a score of declarations of the same 
kind from contemporary speeches ; and even yet, 
in the opinion of a good many Unionists, the Famine 
ought to be regarded not as the inevitable con- 
sequence of an impossible land-system, but as a divine 
judgment on a stiff-necked and unruly race. 

In the upheaval that followed the great disaster 
the landlords believed that the time had come when 
it would be possible to compel the Ulster farmers to 
trust to Protestantism alone as a shield and buckler 
against aggression. Half of Ireland had been turned 
into a wilderness littered with the bones of starving 
peasants in order that the laws of Ricardian economics 


might not be violated ; and it was surely intolerable 
that the great ideal of uniformity between Ireland 
and England should be marred by the survival of a 
gross anomaly like the Ulster Custom. In the orthodox 
phrase of the era, " contract must be substituted 
for status in the matter of land tenure," otherwise 
the central object of the Act of Union, which was the 
abolition of all distinctions between Ireland and 
England, would be rendered null and void. " Let 
the Government," it was urged, " resolutely and 
impartially discharge its primary duty of preserving 
order, of upholding undeniable property rights, and 
of enforcing reasonable contracts ; let small holdings 
which cannot support the cultivator be discouraged ; 
consolidate the farms ; let emigration drain off the 
stagnant population — and the chronic malady that 
has so long afflicted Ireland will disappear." 

Politicians might argue that tenants ought to make 
sacrifices in the interests of the Union, and preachers 
like Cooke and his satellites might proclaim that 
Ulster needed no other bulwark than her Pro- 
testantism to save her from the fate of the be- 
nighted Catholics of Connacht, but the people of the 
North were not in the mood to accept this gospel. 
Their point of view is admirably set forth in a ballad 
which was very popular amongst Presbyterians half 
a century ago, and is still, strange to say, reprinted 
in Orange song-books : — 

" What is this right your new-made laws demand 

of us to yield ? 
The right to live like Christian men, not oxen of 

the field ; 
To feel we freemen tread the land our freeman 

fathers trod. 
The right to lift at Kirk and Church unfettered 

hands to God. 


" We have been kinsmen of your blood, and clans- 
men of your name ; 

No bond we asked but nobles' words when to 
this land we came ; 

And now our rights, but favours none, we're 
asking at your hands ; 

We gave our yeomen service — we'll keep our 
yeomen lands." 

In vigorous rhetoric it was made plain that the 
appeal to the Protestantism of the North was double- 
edged : — 

" Bethink ye well before ye try to grind us down to 

The hands that kept a hostile land can keep a 
yeoman's hearth ; 

We look around our hills and vales — are recollec- 
tions there 

Of failure or defeat to bid our fathers' sons despair? 

" Derry frowns ' unsurrendered ' yet, where Foyle 

and ocean join ; 
Proud as of yore looks down Donor e upon the 

storied Boyne ; 
Dungannon still uprears its spire against the 

vault of blue. 
As when waved glorious in its choir the flags of 


" The ploughman's share each year lays bare the 

bones of Diamond field ; 
Tell us have memories such as these but taught 

our hearts to yield ? 
And ere by fraud ye take the right our toil repays 

From days past learn this lesson stern — ^Beware 

the Ulster men ! " 


And when Protestant landlords turned a deaf ear 
to this remonstrance, Protestant tenants were not 
slow to act. As in the days of Wolfe Tone they turned 
again to their fellow-countrymen ; and for a time it 
appeared as if the Tenant-right movement of 1850 
was destined to crown with success the ideals of the 
United Irishmen. At a meeting held in Newtownards, 
one of the strongest Presbyterian centres in Ulster, 
Rev. John Rogers struck the popular note of the 
hour. " Does my Presbyterianism," he asked, 
*' forbid me to be a patriot ? Is it because I am a fol- 
lower of John Calvin that I am not to be a Christian ? 
Will the farmers of Ireland — because they may 
conscientiously differ in their religious opinions — look 
on one another with distrust and jealousy and hatred, 
while landlords and the legislature, that differ in 
religion as widely as you do, are combined, heart and 
soul, to carry on against you the old familiar work of 
robbery, extermination, and death ? 

' While your tyrants join in hate. 
Will you not join in love ? ' " 

One of those industrious Englishmen for whom 
Ireland has the same sort of attraction as slums used 
to have for a certain type of interfering old lady, 
published at this time a volume in which extracts 
from speeches made at Tenant-right meetings were 
quoted in bulk as proof of the triumph of seditious 
doctrines. The more violent of these addresses were 
delivered by clerics ; and in a debate in Parliament 
it was urged from the Tory benches that such 
poisonous propaganda was the inevitable consequence 
of the training given to Catholic priests at Maynooth 
College. Unfortunately for the champions of landlord- 
ism, it was pointed out by Charles Gavan Duffy that the 
clerical firebrands whose utterances had been quoted 
were not Catholic priests, but Presbyterian ministers. 


The League of the North and South won a series 
of brilHant victories at the polls, and originated in 
Parliament the policy of Independent Opposition, 
which Parnell in the next generation w^as destined to 
develop with such startling results. Very early in its 
career the League had to withstand not only the 
direct assault of the landlord party, but the more 
dangerous influences of the " No Popery " crusade, 
which culminated in Lord John Russell's Ecclesias- 
tical Titles Bill. Those who know only the Ulster of 
to-day will be astonished to learn that the Presby- 
terian land reformers of the 'fifties took their stand 
with the aggressively clerical section of Irish members 
v/ho followed the lead of Sadleir and Keogh, in 
preference to that of Gavan Duffy and Lucas. The 
attitude of the Ulstermen was not due to any love 
of the clericalism of the " Pope's Brass Band," as 
Sadleir's and Keogh's faction was derisively nick- 
named by Catholic Ireland, it sprang from a mistaken 
belief that it w^as better tactics to accept office and 
trust to influencing the Government from the inside, 
than to remain in permanent opposition. As Gavan 
Duffy wrote long afterwards : " The estrangement of 
the Northern delegates . . . did not originate in any 
hereditary causes of quarrel existing between North 
and South. . . . The controversy primarily was 
whether certain persons accepting office had acted 
with probity and good faith. No difference of creed 
was involved, for the men impeached were not 
Northern or Protestants, but Catholics, and those 
who impeached them were also Catholics. Still less 
did a provincial question arise, for none of the 
deserters were Ulster men. It may be confidently 
assumed, I think, that while four years of harmonious 
action justifies the conclusion that Irishmen of various 
races can sink their differences for public ends as well 
as Swiss or Hungarians of various races, the break in 


their friendly relations was one which must have 
happened wherever free controversy exists, and does 
not disturb that conclusion." 

With the failure of the League reaction seemed to 
triumph, but its victory was short-lived. Parlia- 
mentary majorities, however formidable, are of no 
avail against the sweep of social forces ; even bayonets 
were powerless to maintain an anomaly at once so 
grotesque and so tragic as the Irish land-system. 
Up to the beginning of the 'eighties the sole hope of 
the tenant had lain in the goodwill and generosity of 
individual landlords ; with the Land League a new 
force came into being powerful enough to establish 
the rights of the holder on a secure basis of law. The 
political leaders of the Ulster Protestants, like the 
rest of their class all over Ireland, denounced the 
policy and methods of the movement as sheer rapine 
and robbery. But their followers, once again, betrayed 
a rehictance to dance to their piping. When Davitt 
came North in 1880 as the apostle of the " New 
Departure," his meeting at Armagh was presided 
over by the Worshipful Master of an Orange Lodge ; 
Parnell's whirlwind campaign in the Ulster con- 
stituencies owed its success to the support of Protes- 
tant farmers. The Land Act of 1881, according to 
the Tories, was a disgraceful attempt to bribe revo- 
lutionists by robbing loyalists, but the Northern 
tenants, who cheered Tory speeches and voted for 
Tory members, were the first into the Land Courts 
to secure their share of the " plunder." Mr. William 
O'Brien illustrates this point very neatly by an 
incident in the South Tyrone election of 1885, in 
which he defeated the Hon. Somerset Maxwell (after- 
wards Lord Farnham), who stood as the Tory cham- 
pion. A Presbyterian farmer, whipped up to vote 
by the influence of the rent office, deliberately spoiled 
his ballot paper by writing after Somerset Maxwell's 


name " No landlord," and after Mr. O'Brien's '' No 
Pope." It was, as Mr. O'Brien said, " a perfect 
picture of the mentality of the ordinary Ulster 
Presbyterian tenant." 

Blind as they were to the signs of the times. 
Unionists were not too blind to realise that they were 
in danger of losing the allegiance of the strongest 
section of their followers, unless means were taken to 
counteract the influences of Davitt and his followers. 
The situation was met, not unskilfully, by including 
as a sort of tail to the Tory phalanx an Ulster tenants' 
party which, while opposing the principle of self- 
government, stood for a popular settlement of the 
land question. But for this device there is little doubt 
the rural constituencies of the North would have been 
swept into the net of the Land League. As it was, 
the Ulstermen succeeded for many years in running 
with the hare and hunting with the hounds, and 
annexed as a right every concession won by agitation, 
while denouncing the agitators as traitors to the 
Commonwealth. It was not a very heroic part to 
play in a great drama, but it must be admitted that 
when the Unionists were in power the pressure of 
the Ulster tenants did something to modify reaction. 
By the beginning of the twentieth century it was 
evident to everyone except the Irish landlords that 
dual ownership must go, and that compulsory sale was 
necessary to establish tenant proprietorship on a 
sound basis. Protestant farmers were as eager as their 
Catholic neighbours to end an intolerable system. 
Sir Thomas Russell, who, as Mr. T. W. Russell, led 
the Protestant tenants, expressed what most of his 
followers felt, when writing in 1901 he said, " I 
thought that Irish landlords were Unionists on high 
political grounds ; that they were fighting for the 
country's good, not their own. I do not think this 
to-day. On the contrary, I have come to the con- 


elusion, slowly but surely, that in pretending to fight 
for the Union, these men were simply fighting for 
their own interests — that Rent not Patriotism was 
their guiding motive." 

When agricultural Ulster began to echo the demands 
of the United Irish League even the stoutest Con- 
servatives, however little they might like it, could 
no longer ignore hard facts. The knowledge that 
North and South were united in their claims had much 
to do with inducing a mood of sweet reasonableness 
at the Land Conference, whose agreement formed 
the basis of the Wyndham Act of 1903. From the 
Plantation to the Union the land had been the bone 
of contention which divided Protestants and Catholics 
into hostile factions. If the clash of races and religions 
would have been severe in any case, the fact that 
victory for a creed or a race meant possession of the 
land intensified a thousandfold the bitterness of the 
struggle. In the nineteenth century, however, what 
had hitherto been a disruptive became a unifying 
force. From the first efforts of Sharman Crawford, 
in the years preceding the Famine, to obtain legal 
recognition for the principle of tenant right, 
it became increasingly difficult to maintain the 
theory that Catholic Irishmen aimed at expro- 
priating the Protestant tenant as well as the Pro- 
testant landlord. 

The old thesis, so familiar to students of Irish 
history, that the demand for self-government merely 
masks a plot to perpetrate a Jacquerie on an epical 
scale has been recently re-stated in a book entitled 
The Soul of Ulster, by Lord Ernest Hamilton. Accor- 
ding to the author. Nationalists, having overthrown 
landlordism by legal enactments inside the British 
constitution, are now seeking to establish a State 
outside the British constitution, in which they will 
have power to confiscate the property of all Protestant 


tenants, simply because they are Protestants. The 
bogey thus conjured up may thrill timorous English 
Tories, but it awakens no response in Ulster. What- 
ever Orange farmers may fear from Home Rule they 
do not believe that under it their holdings will be 
confiscated, and they and their children turned out 
to beg on the roadside. If any reader of The Soul of 
Ulster demands proof of this assertion I simply point 
to the fact that North Tyrone, a constituency which 
Lord Ernest Hamilton's family looked on for genera- 
tions as their private preserve, was held from 1895, 
until it was merged under the new Franchise Act in 
North- West Tyrone, by Home Rulers who owed their 
return to Protestant votes. 

Personally, I have little doubt that had the pos- 
session of the soil been the only economic issue, racial 
and religious bigotries would long since have proved 
powerless to keep North and South asunder. But 
just as the Land Question began to exercise a recon- 
ciling influence a new and disturbing factor came into 
play in the success of the industrial revolution in the 
North. It might have been thought that industrialism, 
if it resulted in a cleavage, would have meant a 
cleavage along new lines ; the curious thing is that it 
deepened instead of obliterating existing differences. 
Belfast owes its prosperity more to the power-loom 
than to Pitt ; and its insistence that the Union 
meant for it commercially the parting of the ways 
is as good an example as modern politics can show 
of the fallacy post hoc ergo proper hoc. Yet no belief 
is held more strongly by Ulster Unionists who, 
wilfully closing their eyes to the fact that throughout 
the Three Kingdoms the opening decades of the 
nineteenth century synchronised with a depression 
in agriculture as great as the boom in industrialism, 
persist in declaring that if the Irish people had only 
abandoned their idle dreams of self-government the 


cottiers of Connemara would be as wealthy to-day as 
the linen lords of Ulster. 

The smoke of factory chimneys is in the minds of 
the North incense burned as a visible proof that its 
people are as much a race apart as the Jews, and, 
like them, dowered with blessings denied to those 
who do not hold their faith. Yet the wealth of 
industrial Ulster has failed to safeguard its people 
against evils which many of them fondly believe 
to be a special doom designed for the chastening of 
Catholics and Nationalists. The population of the 
province has decreased by a third since the 'forties ; 
and if Belfast, within living memory, has trebled 
and quadrupled its inhabitants in a fashion that 
equals the records of American boom cities, despite 
its unprecedented growth, the two covmties in which 
the city is situated contain to-day fewer people than 
they did before the Famine. The emigration from the 
North, instead of diminishing, has steadily increased 
inside the last generation ; and the extraordinary 
feature of the lists is that the increase is heaviest in 
the Protestant counties. The number of emigrants 
from Down and Antrim (including Belfast) in the 
decade ending 1911 was more than double that of 
the previous decade ; whereas, in the same period, 
emigration from Catholic Monaghan and Cavan 
showed a substantial decline. This fact ought surely, 
one would think, to modify the rhapsodies about 
Ulster's unparalleled prosperity which are so in- 
cessantly dinned into our ears. A community which 
loses man-power as it gains wealth might well be 
more concerned about the beam in its own eye than 
about the mote in that of its neighbour. 

Nowadays it is in the industrial areas that anta- 
gonisms are sharpest edged. The towns provided the 
driving force for the Carson crusade, and prejudices 
flourish more rankly in the back streets of Belfast 


and Portadown than in the fields of Tyrone and 
Antrim. In the country Orange and Green generally 
live and work apart, and come into collision only on 
the high days of their respective creeds, when bad 
whiskey has perhaps more to do with their broils and 
battles than either King William or the Pope. In the 
towns, though the factions reside for the most part 
in separate quarters — the Ghetto principle still sur- 
vives in Ulster — the chances of friction are naturally 
greater, and a tiny spark can provoke a shattering 
explosion. The real reason why hostility should have 
developed so strongly lies deeper down ; and its roots 
are to be found, I believe, in economic rather than 
political causes. On the land, as I have shown, the 
Catholic inside the last generation has attained a 
status equal to that of the Protestant, and, in attaining 
it, has established an identity of interests which, 
though it may be obscured by party or religious 
differences, exercises a potent influence. In industry, 
on the contrary, the Catholic is still regarded as a 
'' have not," whose efforts to better his position are 
denounced as inspired simply by a desire to dispossess 
the " haves." 

In a w^ord, capitalism to-day has stepped into the 
position vacated by autocratic landlordism ; and by 
playing on the racial and religious prejudices of the 
workers uses one section to depress the other, while 
it profits by exploiting both. I do not say this is 
true of every individual capitalist, but that it is the 
general tendency can be denied only by those who 
shut their eyes to obvious and notorious facts. It is 
essential to understand the conditions which have 
enabled this policy to be developed with such con- 
spicuous success. Just as the Protestant tenant in 
other generations was protected by the Ulster Custom, 
so the Protestant workers in Ulster industries con- 
stitute the vast majority of the skilled artisans who 

dividp: and conquer si 

have gradually established for their members a 
definite status in the industrial world. Nationalists 
are strongest in the ranks of unskilled labour ; and, 
until the war transformed the existing system, it was 
precisely amongst unskilled workers that the leaven 
of a new gospel was fermenting most vehemently. 
They were demanding their " place in the sun," in 
the shape of a living wage and the safeguards which 
the members of skilled trades had through their 
organisations managed to secure by dint of persistent 

Everywhere, except in Ulster, this movement was 
seen to be the logical consequence of theories accepted 
as axioms by the whole trade-union world. The 
class-consciousness of the mass of Belfast trade- 
unionists is, however, obscured by their conviction 
that their prosperity springs from the fact that they 
are members of a dominant race, and that the main- 
tenance of this imaginary prestige is vital to their 
interests. Nothing is therefore easier, to those who 
know how to play on their feelings, than to represent 
a demand for improved conditions by a class in which 
Nationalist workers are strongly represented, as 
inspired by insidious political motives. The questions 
at issue may be better wages for home workers or 
shorter hours for dock labourers, but devil's advocates 
can always be found to argue, in a favourite phrase 
of Ulster Unionism, that this is " the thin edge of 
the wedge." The strikers, if not actually denounced 
as participants in a plot, are depicted as the ignorant 
tools of unscrupulous agitators, whose sole object is 
to destroy Ulster industries and reduce Belfast to 
the desolation of the Cities of the Plain. I have 
known many strikes in Belfast, but I never remember 
one of any importance in which this contention was 
not raised by the champions of the masters ; and the 
champions of the rnasters are in all cases the official 


spokesmen of the Unionist Party. No Ulster Unionist 
paper has ever backed a strike ; and in my recollection 
no Episcopalian or Presbyterian minister has stood 
on a strike platform. Even since the beginning of the 
war the old game has been played, and played success- 
fully. Its latest triumph was to represent as a Sinn 
Fein plot the attempt of scandalously underpaid Pro- 
testant girls in a well-known Belfast draper's shop 
to obtain something like a living wage. 

If it is argued that these are fair tactics as between 
capital and labour, it cannot be denied that they 
react disastrously on the social life of the community. 
While it is unfortunately easy enough to loose such 
forces it is another matter to ensure that they shall 
rage only according to order. When political excite- 
ment rises to the boiling point in Belfast its results 
are apt to stagger some of those who have most 
diligently stoked the fires. Even the interests of 
capital, which are for Unionist Ulster the Ark of the 
Covenant, become a trifle light as air, not indeed to 
the capitalist, but to the Protestant democracy, 
whose support is the mainspring of his power. The 
Orangemen, like the founders of his Order, invariably 
meets what he considers to be a threat to his political 
prestige by a ukase declaring an economic boycott 
of his opponents. Catholics are driven from mills 
and factories by the same methods of mob violence 
that were employed to clear them out of Armagh in 
the last decade of the eighteenth century. During 
the anti-Home Rule agitation Nationalist workers 
for months at a time could enter the shipyards only 
at the risk of their lives ; yet the very men whose 
political stock-in-trade has been the denunciation of 
agrarian outrages as the unpardonable sin, uttered 
no protest against these barbarities. On the contrary, 
mobs whose deeds emulated those of the Black 
Hundred proclaimed, unreproved by the leaders, lay 


and clerical, to whom they professed to owe allegiance, 
that they were serving the cause of civil and religious 

Under such circumstances the Northern Nationalist 
might have been pardoned had he lost heart in the 
struggle, and degenerated into a mere helot trembling 
before iron-fisted taskmasters. This, however, he has 
not done. Hard pressed indeed he often is, but, as 
even his foes are constrained to admit, he has never 
accepted defeat. If he does not meet his trials pre- 
cisely with a frolic welcome, he has developed powers 
of endurance as great if not greater than those of 
his political opponents, whose supreme pride is their 
" dourness." North of the Boyne one looks in vain 
for the unstable and mercurial Gael of popular 
tradition. The Orangeman finds himself confronted 
with an antagonist fully his m.atch in tenacity, 
and never more dangerous than when he is fighting 
an uphill battle against apparently hopeless odds. 
Though in the main the Ulster Nationalist contends 
with the Orangeman, he is more often than not 
fighting the Orangeman's battle as well as his own. 
To the particularism of the Unionist he opposes not 
the special claims of a creed or a race, but the broad 
principle of democracy, and it is not his least memor- 
able achievement that his enemies nowadays can 
maintain their cherished dogmas only by repudiating 
the whole modern movement. This is not an exag- 
geration, but a plain statement of fact, as a good 
many Unionists are beginning to realise. In the recent 
Belfast elections Mr. W. J. Stewart, a Democratic 
candidate, the sincerity of whose devotion to the 
Union even Sir Edward Carson did not question, 
bluntly stated the truth to an audience of Covenanters, 
and his plain speaking was greeted with cheers 
not, as would formerly have been the case, with 
volleys of brickbats and paving-stones. " The 


danger to the Union to-day," Mr. Stewart declared, 
" lay in those men who were endeavouring to retain 
their old privileges and their old ascendancy, and who 
were thus connecting the Union with privilege and 
with ascendancy, so that the Ulster Party stank in 
the nostrils of every right-thinking man in England 
and Scotland." Unionism aims at stereotyping the 
existing industrial hierarchy, and bases its arguments 
on the assumption that any movement which 
threatens the powers and privileges of a class en- 
dangers the whole political fabric. This contention 
has its attraction for Orange democracy when it is 
employed to restrain the class amongst whom the 
Nationalists are most numerous ; but when it is 
advanced to justify the refusal of concessions to 
other grades of workers not a little of the gilt dis- 
appears from the gingerbread. 

When the industrial skies are clear the Protestant 
worker may cheer Sir Edward Carson ; when he 
desires to improve the conditions under which he 
labours he promptly turns for support to Nationalist 
leaders like Mr. Joseph Devlin, and does not turn in 
vain. There have been few more memorable develop- 
ments in modern Irish politics than Mr. Devlin's 
campaign in the interests of Ulster wage-earners. 
It was denounced with rabid vehemence not only 
as a plot to set class against class — that was to be 
expected as a matter of course — but as a scheme 
to undermine the very foundations of Ulster's 
prosperity. When Mr. Devlin attacked the sweat- 
ing of home workers the reply was that to mention 
sweating was to drag politics into business ; 
when he demanded a minimum wage for factory 
girls his opponents beat their breasts in frenzied 
lamentations over the vision of mills and factories 
lapsing into ruin, and the green grass sprouting 
in the once busy streets of Belfast. Yet to-day 


it is Sir Edward Carson himself who stoops to 
steal Mr. Devlin's policy. Just as the landlords 
tolerated a tenants' tail to the Irish Unionist Party, 
so the capitalists find it imperative for their own safety 
to permit a workers' tail to be added. 

It remains to bo seen whether the Ulster Labour 
Unionist Association is intended to be more than an 
obvious springe to catch woodcock. At its inaugural 
meeting Sir Edward Carson appeared on the platform 
flanked by a shipbuilder and an Irish peer who draws 
the bulk of his money from English mining royalties ; 
and the refrain running through all the speeches was 
that, whatever might be the case elsewhere. Labour 
and Capital in fortunate Ulster are two hearts that 
beat as one. It is important to note, however, that 
Sir Edward Carson, instead of giving pledges to Labour, 
has, with the skill of an old Parliamentary hand, so 
arranged matters that Labour is pledged to Unionism. 
Therefore should divisions come, and should 
Unionism, as always in the past, stand by Capital, 
the Labour Unionists, in theory at least, will be 
bound to obey the official Unionist leaders who, 
judging by Sir Edward Carson's record, are pretty 
certain to be found in opposition to any bold scheme 
of social reform. 

The calculation, of course, is that the Orange 
worker's prejudice against Nationalism is so strong 
that he can be trusted to sacrifice his material 
interests on the shrine of this ancient feud. But the 
Carsonite leaders have failed to reckon with one 
factor which may invalidate all their conclusions. 
In the case of the land it was possible to represent 
the struggle as one between " loyalists " and 
" disloyalists." In labour matters this will not be so 
easy, for the issues on which masters and men may 
differ in the future are almost certain to be issues 
with an international rather than a local application. 


I question whether Sir Edward Carson's persuasive 
eloquence will be equal to the task of convincing the 
workingmen of Ulster that Irish Nationalism is the 
tail w^hich invariably wags the dog of organised 
European democracy. That was possible only so long 
as Labour could be denied its " place in the sun." 
But even Sir Edward Carson, whose Ulster Provisional 
Government is memorable in that it did not contain 
a single representative of the workers, has been 
forced to recognise that some concession must be 
made to the spirit of the age. The creation of the 
Ulster Labour Unionist Association is a belated 
admission that the working-classes have rights as 
well as duties — a novel, not to say revolutionary, 
doctrine to many Irish Unionists — though the 
founders of the Organisation have done their best to 
inspire the belief that these rights can be preserved 
not by circumscribing the powers of the masters, 
but by limiting the rights of other workers, especially 
if they happen to hold different religious and political 

This device may give good results for a time, but 
I have sufficient confidence in the democratic instincts 
of the average Ulsterman to hold that his bigotry, 
however artfully it may be inflamed, will not always 
dominate his reason. Just as Ulster tenants came 
to see that their interests were identical with those 
of their Nationalist neighbours, so, I am convinced, 
in the new epoch of democratic reconstruction, on 
which the world is entering. Orange workers will 
realise that in matters affecting their economic wel- 
fare they are bound by closer ties to their Nationalist 
fellow-w^orkers than to their capitalist leaders. It 
would be absurd to argue that this discovery will 
settle as by a stroke of magic all Irish political con- 
troversies. Unionists and Home Rulers may still 
hold different views on the question of constitutional 


reform ; but these views will be based on a considera- 
tion of the merits of the case instead of being, as they 
now are too often with both parties, a mere projection 
of traditional prejudices and antagonisms. 



While these pages were passing through the press the 
argument I have used above that Ulster Orangemen would 
not always be content to sacrifice their material interests on 
the shrine of their political and sectarian prejudices, was 
strongly confirmed by the general strike, which paralysed the 
industries of Belfast within a few weeks of the elections in 
which Carsonite candidates were returned by sweeping ma- 
jorities for eight of the nine Parliamentary divisions of the 
city. The trouble which spread in ever-widening circles, 
began amongst the shipyard workers, who are overwhelmingly 
Unionist, and was backed throughout by the rank and file 
of the Orange lodges, and directed by purely Protestant 
leaders. Orangemen and Covenanters dominated the 
Strike Committee, which superseded the civic authorities 
by what was to all intents and purposes a Soviet, whose 
power was so formidable that employers had to obtain per- 
mits from its members to enable them to enter their own 
works. Sir Edward Carson declared the men were befooled 
by revolutionary " Red Flaggers," but when these " Red 
Flaggers '' organised street demonstrations it was Orange 
drums that thundered defiance against capitalists. The 
Unionist leader understood the strikers as little as did some 
Nationalists who assumed that Belfast was pulling down its 
political idols from their pedestals. As a matter of fact the 
demand for a forty-four hours week was intended by those 
who made it to prove to the world at large that a belief in 
the doctrines of the Ulster Covenant could go hand in hand 


with advanced theories about the rights of Labour. On the 
eve of the elections the Unionist candidates led by Sir Edward 
Carson had given a specific pledge to support the campaign 
for shorter hours, and when at the first hint of trouble these 
leaders ostentatiously took their stand beside the employers 
their working-class followers were no less disgusted than 
amazed. The struggle may not have weakened the faith 
of the mass of the Covenanters in their political dogmas, 
but it has opened the eyes of not a few of them to the fact 
that those to whom they have been accustomed to look for 
guidance act as if they believed that democratic and labour 
ideals are irreconcilable with Orange and Unionist principles. 
As yet the worker has not been forced to chose between these 
alternatives, but the next battle for better economic con- 
ditions threatens, unless the Unionist chiefs play their parts 
more skilfully, to produce dramatic political developments. 
Not the least significant feature of the dispute was the fact 
that for the first time attempts to destroy the solidarity of the 
men by appeals to sectarian passions, failed ignominously 
The watchword of the strikers throughout was. as an Orange- 
man in their ranks characteristically put it : " To Hell with 
the man that names religion."- 


11. — The Religious Question. 


English politicians of all parties are confident that 
the Irish question is at bottom a problem of political 
mechanics, where the riddle to be solved is the exact 
amount of driving force that can be safely entrusted 
to a Home Rule administration. Sinn Feiners, on the 
other hand, proclaim that only on the lines of inter- 
nationalism can a settlement be achieved ; and 
Labour is just as positive that social reform will 
bring healing in its wings. The Ulster Unionist is 
prepared to dispute each and all of these positions ; 
but, beaten back from them, he retires to his last 
line of defence that the issue is religious not political. 
This is his Verdun, and on it he plants his flag with a 
gesture of grim defiance. Ty suis, fy reste is the 
sole answer he condescends to make ; and attempts 
to dislodge him are the more difficult because his 
opponents have only arguments to match against 
prejudices rooted deeper than reason. 

I have known a student of history who maintained 
that to understand the mentality of the Stuart and 
Tudor times it was less profitable to dig amongst 
mouldering records than to live in modern Ulster. 
According to him, one need only scratch the twentieth 
century veneer to realise the spirit that regarded an 
auto-da-f6 as the equivalent of a bank holiday. I 
have had much the same sensation myself when in 


talk with a business man, whose contempt for tra- 
dition would have pleased Chicago, a stray word has 
provoked an outburst that might have fallen from 
the lips of one of Cromwell's pikemen as he mounted 
the breach at Drogheda. There are well-meaning 
people who maintain that the safest way of dealing 
with these passions is to ignore their existence. 
Undoubtedly it is true that discussions about the 
sectarian element in Ulster politics serve as a rule 
merely to add fuel to the flames. But in the majority 
of these discussions the aim of writers and speakers 
has been either to justify or denounce, and compara- 
tively few have attempted to analyse and explain. 
Yet analysis and explanation are more important, if 
less exciting, and, unfortunately, they are at times 
exciting enough. The most prudent investigator 
cannot handle these flaming embers without running 
the risk of burning his fingers in the process. 

The paradox that confronts one at the outset is 
that a state of affairs which in other communities 
would be regarded as fatal to right development, is 
held by certain sections of Irish opinion to be not 
only normal, but to provide the sole guarantee of 
stability and the one hope of progress. Protestant 
Ireland still, in Sheil's phrase, " kneels to England 
on the necks of her Roman Catholic countrymen ; " 
and her official leaders in practice, if not so openly 
nowadays in theory, echo the fear which Arch- 
bishop Boulter expressed when the old barriers that 
divided the races appeared to be collapsing. " The 
worst of this," declared the astute ecclesiastic, " is 
that it tends to unite Protestant with Papist, and 
whenever that happens good-bye to the English 
interest in Ireland for ever." So far from recog- 
nising as a reproach the survival of these medi- 
aeval feuds, the Ulsterman flourishes them as a 
proof that he has kept the faith pure in a world of 


Laodiceans who will blow neither hot nor cold. Most 
curious phenomena of all, he has taken of late 5^ears 
to basing his case for the maintenance of the Union 
on an admission of his own intolerance. Where 
formerly he stood for Ascendancy as his right, he now 
argues that no Irish party can exercise power because 
Protestants cannot act fairly towards Catholics any 
more than Catholics can towards Protestants. This is 
not quite so ingenuous as it looks. If England con- 
tinues to hold the balance the Unionist feels, however 
small his minority may be, there is always a sporting 
chance that the scales will be tipped in his favour. 

One would imagine that Protestants would bend all 
their energies towards establishing in Ireland the 
high ideals of tolerance which, they would have us 
believe, exist in Great Britain. But this they never 
think of doing. These differences are, in their view, 
part of the eternal scheme of things ; and though 
they profess to contemplate a world after the w^ar 
in which the clash of religious and racial prejudices 
shall be resolved into harmony in Bohemia, Belgium, 
and the Balkans ; in Ireland alone the old evils are 
to persist in secula seculorum. There is an element 
if not of insincerity, certainly of blague in these 
declarations. The Ulster Unionist no more fears 
that the grant of self-government will be a signal for 
re-kindling the fires of Smithfield than he believes the 
retention of the Union will turn Catholics en masse 
from their faith. If he continues to beat the drum 
ecclesiastic with resounding vigour it is because he 
enjoys doing it, and because hitherto he has never 
failed to find the exercise profitable as well as pleasant. 

It must not be assumed from this that the Orange- 
man's hatred of Popery, as he loves to term it, is not 
the expression of a genuine conviction. The war 
has introduced us to the mystery of the " Hidden 
Hand." North of the Boyne there was never any 


mystery about it, for here the " Hidden Hand " is, 
and has always been, the Vatican. The question at 
issue may be a County Council contract or the appoint- 
ment of a dispensary doctor ; but, if the v/rong side 
wins, opponents see the sinister finger of Rome 
pulling the strings, and hear the College of Cardinals 
chanting " Te Deums " over another nail driven into 
the coffin of Protestantism. 

In his autobiography. Father and Son, Mr. Edmund 
Gosse describes the shuddering horror with which his 
parents taught him to regard the Papacy. " We 
palliated nothing," he says, " we believed in no good 
intentions ; we used (I myself used, in my tender 
innocency) language of the seventeenth century such 
as is now no longer introduced into any species of 
controversy. As a little boy, when I thought, with 
intent vagueness, of the Pope, I used to shut my 
eyes tight and clench my fists. We welcomed any 
social disorder in any part of Italy, as likely to be 
annoying to the Papacy. If there was a custom- 
house officer stabbed in a fracas at Sassaria, we gave 
loud thanks that liberty and light were breaking in 
on Sardinia. If there was an unsuccessful attempt to 
murder the Grand Duke, we lifted up our voices to 
celebrate the faith and sufferings of the dear per- 
secuted Tuscans ; and the record of some apocryphal 
monstrosity at Naples would only reveal to us a 
glorious opening for Gospel energy. 

" As a child, whatever I might question, I never 
doubted the turpitude of Rome. I do not think I 
had formed any idea whatever of the character or 
pretentions or practices of the Catholic Church, or 
indeed of what it consisted, or its nature, but I 
regarded it with a vague terror as a wild beast, the 
only good point about it being that it was very old 
and was soon to die." 

Mr. Gosse tells us that in after life he met " gallant 


' Down-with-the-Pope ' men from County Antrim." 
and, in contrast with his own youthful fervour, found 
" their denunciations err on the side of the anodyne." 
I suspect he met them elsewhere than on their 
native heath. A Sunday afternoon at the Belfast 
Custom House steps, with Protestant oratory in full 
blast, or the sort of speeches that invariably conclude 
an Orange meeting would cause him to revise his 
views. I remember an Orange sheet in Belfast in 
which an enterprising shoemaker advertised his wares 
in one glorious sentence : — " Wear Kelly's boots to 
trample the Papists." I remember, also, a lecture 
on Rome by a clergyman who described a visit to 
St. Peter's with much the same air as Daniel might 
have recounted his experiences in the den of lions. 
" As I crossed the threshold," he said impressively, 
" my good Presbyterian boots creaked in protest." 
These people lack the consolation which Mr. Gosse 
enjoyed of thinking that because the Church of Rome 
is old it is soon to die. Rather, in their eyes, it goes 
marching on from victory to victory, and they can 
never remember the time when the trumpet was not 
sounding " To your tents, O Ulster ! " 

If Catholic Emancipation was in Unionist eyes the 
crime of the century, the Disestablishment of the 
Irish Church which followed forty years later was the 
supreme betrayal. Even the Carsonite crusade did 
not produce stronger language than that of the peers 
who announced their determination to " fight as men 
alone can fight who have the Bible in one hand and 
the sword in the other," or the lawyers who were 
eager, on platforms at least, to " seal their protest 
with their blood in martyrdom and battle." These 
people really seem to have persuaded themselves that 
the preservation of their Ascendancy was essential to 
the cause of Christianity. On the first Sunday after 
the Disestablishment Act came into force, a hymn. 


specially written for the occasion by Mrs. Alexander, 
the wife of the Bishop of the diocese, Avas sung in 
Derry Cathedral. The opening verse ran : — 

" Look down. Lord of Heaven, on our desolation, 
Fallen, fallen, fallen is oiu' country's crown ; 
Dimly dawns the New Year on a churchless 

Ammon and Amalek tread our borders down. " 

The words would not have been inadequate had 
another Cromwell commandeered cathedrals as stables 
for his troop horses, or had Terrorists, as in the days 
of the French Revolution, danced the carmagnole 
before the altar. Whereas what had happened was 
that a Church which had failed notoriously in its 
mission, and served merely as the symbol of the 
supremacy of a privileged minority, was reduced to 
an equality with other denominations, and started 
on its new career with compensation to the tune of 
more than eleven millions sterling. 

A curious survival of the Disestablishment agitation 
is still to be seen at Roxborough Castle, Tyrone, the 
seat of the Earls of Charlemont, the first of whom 
has a place in history as the leader of the Irish Volun- 
teers of 1782. The third Earl, in keeping with his 
family traditions, was a strong Liberal, and when the 
castle was rebuilt in the 'sixties, so fervent was his 
party loyalty that he adorned the fa9ade with sculp- 
tured masks of Gladstone and John Bright. The work 
was scarcely finished before the Irish Church Act 
became practical politics, and Charlemont straight- 
way repudiated his allegiance to his leaders. Glad- 
stone from an idol became a traitor who deserved a 
traitor's fate ; and, as he could not be punished in 
the flesh, orders were given to tar the mask. The 
bulk of his fellows speedily became resigned to dis- 
establishment, but Charlemont never relented. Each 


year while he hved a fresh coat of tar was added ; 
and in his will he left a sum of money to ensure that 
the process should be continued. To-day Roxborough 
Castle, like many another great Irish mansion, lies 
untenanted, but the blackened head, an ugly splotch 
on the white front, still stares down on the stray 
visitor, driving home a moral, perhaps, other than 
the one the third Earl of Charlemont intended. 

Though Disestablishment is now admitted on all 
hands to be the best thing that ever happened to the 
Irish Episcopalian Church, its success has done 
nothing to modify opposition to later reforms. On 
the contrary, with each new advance the cry of 
'' Religion in danger " rises in an ever- swelling 
crescendo. Thus the Land Acts instead of being 
introduced to benefit the tenants were represented 
as a subtle scheme to rob Protestants ; and Home 
Rule, of course, was meant to grind them to powder. 
Nor is it only in purely Irish measures that the cloven 
hoof is detected. I have a vivid recollection of a 
meeting held in Belfast, shortly after the death of 
King Edward, to protest against any change in the 
Coronation Oath. By the time the meeting took 
place it was obvious that Parliament would not 
persist in compelling King George to label millions of 
his subjects blasphemers and idolators, and it was 
not the fault of the divines who lashed themselves 
into a fury on the platform, if the audience did not 
leave the hall with the conviction that the British 
Constitution had become only a historic memory. 

There are people to whom this attitude of mind 
betokens a crazy obsession, a hallucination that just 
stops short of maniacal possession. Facts in abun- 
dance can be found to justify this view, but it is more 
profitable to treat the case as one of arrested develop- 
ment. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to get 
English parties to take sides to-day on the question 


of Roundheads and Cavaliers. But to the Ulster 
partisan the theology of Calvin and Knox is well 
nigh inseparable from the political theories which 
that theology imposed on Ireland three centuries ago. 
He is fighting for the same ideas as the original 
Planters, and has no scruples about using the same 
weapons. As a matter of fact he will, in words at 
any rate, go one better. Colonel Saunderson, the 
Orange leader in the agitation against the Gladstonian 
Home Rule Bills, used to tell of a lecture on Cromwell 
he gave at Portadown. To his amazement, after he 
had finished his address, a veteran Orangeman rose 
in the body of the hall, and said that whatever the 
Colonel might tell them he for one had no opinion of 
Cromwell. " What's your objection ? " asked the 
bewildered lecturer. " Well, you see, Colonel, I'm 
not denyin' that Cromwell meant well, but he spoiled 
himself when he gave thon Catholics the choice 
between Hell and Connacht." It was a shock, but 
Saunderson's wit was equal to it. " My friend," he 
said, solemnly, " did you ever see Connacht ? " and 
he sat down amidst the cheers of an audience con- 
vinced that Cromwell knew his business. 

In the old days Orangemen believed that their 
racial supremacy was in itself a justification of their 
religion ; a good many of them still feel in their hearts 
that the creed they profess ought to give them a 
title to exercise ascendancy. They have evolved a 
theory that they are the leaven in the flabby dough 
of Catholic Ireland, or rather a remnant amongst the 
heathen who have kept a light burning in the dark 
places of the earth. According to their apologists, 
their deepest desire has been that righteousness and 
peace should prevail ; and history, as written in 
Ulster, is a long and tearful record of the sorrows and 
sufferings of godly men whose message of good-will 
was spurned by a stiff-necked and unregenerate race, 


Unfortunately when one turns to history these godly 
men are discovered to be as legendary figures as Cuch- 
ulain and Ferdia. Their descendants drape the original 
Planters in a mantle of saintliness that hangs incon- 
gruously on those hard-bitten adventurers. Con- 
temporary records by men whose impartiality is 
unquestioned provide a truer, if less edifying, 

Patrick Adair, who was a minister of the Irish 
Presbyterian Church from 1641 till after the Revolu- 
tion of 1688, declares in his Narrative that " the 
most part " of the Scottish Settlers who crossed to 
Ulster " were such as either poverty or scandalous 
lives, or, at best, seeking better accommodation, 
did set forward that way." The excuse for the 
invasion was, in Adair's words, " The Irish remaining 
not only obdurate in their idolatry, but also in idleness 
and rudeness " ; yet he is frank enough to add of 
those whom he describes as the " first essay ers " : 
" little care was taken by any to plant religion. As 
were the people, so, for the most part, were the 
preachers." If Adair is to be believed, up till the 
Rebellion of 1641, instead of the Settlers influencing 
the natives, the natives influenced the Settlers. " There 
was sinful mixing with the Papists," according to him, 
*' in all things, except the outward form of public 
worship; Protestants being equally profane and godless 
in their carriage with Papists, and in their religion 
coming towards the Papists ; leaving off the former 
sincerity and soundness in their doctrine and worship, 
which sometimes had appeared amongst the con- 
formable Protestants, both clergy and people in 
Ireland, in opposition to Popery ; and the public 
generally becoming unconcerned in religion ; con- 
forming ministers and Popish priests using all 
familiarity together, and that even on the Sabbath 
days after their Service and Mass, drinking together 


and spending the time idly ; which the people also 
followed as occasion served." 

Andrew Stewart, a son of one of the original 
Planters and himself Minister of Donaghadee, is quite 
as outspoken. '' From Scotland came many," he 
writes, " and from England not a few, yet all of them 
.generally the scum of both nations, who, for debt, 
or breaking and fleeing from Justice, or seeking 
shelter, came hither, hoping to be without fear of man's 
justice in a land where there is nothing, or but little, 
as yet, of the fear of God 

" Thus on all hands Atheism increased, and dis- 
regard of God — iniquity abounded, contention, 
fighting, murder, thieving, adultery, etc. — as among 
people who, as they had nothing within them to 
overawe them, so their ministers' example was worse 
than nothing, for, from the Prophets of Israel, pro- 
faneness went forth to the whole land." 

In another place Stewart tells us " going for Ireland 
was looked upon as a miserable mark of a deplorable 
person — yea, it was turned to a proverb, and one of 
the worst expressions of disdain that could be invented, 
to tell a man that Ireland would be his hinder end." 

The difficulties and dangers that beset the Settlers, 
instead of hastening degeneration, evolved in no long 
space of years the qualities that distinguish a ruling 
race. Courage, capacity, and inflexible determination 
became typical Ulster virtues, but these virtues were 
cultivated by a minority at the expense of a majority. 
One recalls Sir Walter Scott's shrewd remark, " The 
Irish Protestants are a fine race but dangerous to the 
quiet of a country. They remind me of the Moors in 
Spain or of the Spaniards in Mexico." It is true that 
the Ulster Presbyterian tasted persecution himself, 
but if he did not relish being beaten with whips he 
endured it as a condition that Catholics should be 
chastised with scorpions. So long as Protestantism 


was on top he submitted tamely enough to the denial 
to his peculiar variety of Protestantism of place and 
power. The records of his creed are one long indict- 
ment of the grinding tyranny of the Establishment, 
yet with magnificent hardihood he proclaims that 
Protestants alone know and practice tolerance. 

The hand of the Ascendancy lay heavily on Irish 
Nonconformists not only in the days when Swift scoffed 
at Presbyterianism as "an angry cat," when Dissent- 
ing Ministers were haled to prison for preaching in their 
own meeting houses, and their elders fined for living 
in sin because their marriages had not been solemnized 
according to the rites of the Established Church. 
It is possible there are Presbyterians still alive who 
in the eyes of the law were born out of wedlock, 
because their parents had been married by a Presby- 
terian Minister instead of by a priest in holy orders. 
As late as 1840 an Episcopalian who was arrested for 
bigamy put forward the defence that his first marriage 
had taken place in a Presbyterian Church, while the 
second was celebrated according to the rites of the 
Church of England. The Irish Chief Justice, in pro- 
nouncing the first marriage invalid, declared " the 
law of this country does not recognise the orders of 
the Presbyterian Church because it is not episcopal 
and conformable to what the Act of Uniformity had 
before made the law." This view was confirmed by 
the House of Lords, where the Bishop of Exeter 
denied that " there was any Presbyterian Church in 
Ireland at all, and that if any body was so called it 
was in violation of the canons." The Irish Episco- 
palian bishops and clergy flung themselves into the 
fray with exultant war-whoops ; and the Primate 
actually paid out of his own pocket the cost of the 
law-suit against the Presbyterians, which, according 
to Rev. C. H. Irwin's Presbyterianism in Dublin, 
amounted to £6,000. For four long years the struggle 


raged, until in 1844, after interminable negotiations, 
a Bill was passed through Parliament legalising 
Presbyterian marriages, and authorizing Presbyterian 
ministers to celebrate marriage between Presby- 
terians and Episcopalians. 

Mr. Irwin states, " if the British Parliament had 
supported the British judges and the bigoted bishops 
it is hard to say how it might have fared with British 
rule in Ireland." Yet in 1842, while Irish Presby- 
terians lay under the intolerable stigma, as Professor 
Witherow put it, " that in the eye of British law they 
and their wives v/ere regarded by the State as living 
in fornication and their children in bastardy," the 
two hundredth anniversary of the constitution of the 
first Presbytery in Ulster was commemorated with 
appropriate pomp and ceremony. M'Comb, known 
as " the poet of the Church," hymned the auspicious 
occasion in lines of which the following stanza is a 
good example of the fatal obsession of official Presby- 
terianism. The Pope had no power to pass Marriage 
Acts in Ireland, yet it was the Vatican and not the 
House of Peers that the Lord was called upon to reform. 

" Two hundred years ago the hand of massacre 

was nigh ; 
And far and wide o'er Erin's land was heard the 

midnight cry ; 
Now Presbyterian Ulster rests in happiness and 

While crimes in distant provinces from year to 

year increase ; 
O Lord ! their bondage quickly turn, as streams 

in south that flow. 
For Popery is what it was two hundred years 


I w^onder whether it struck any of those who 
applauded these sentiments that if Popery had not 


changed neither had the Episcopal Church, and that 
its bigotry and narrowness had been for two centuries 
the worst stumbHng-block in the path of M'Comb's 
" Presbyterian band," who 

" Planted on the castle wall the Banner of the Blue, 
And worshipped God in simple form — as Presby- 
terians do." 

Irish Presbyterians, though the present generation 
seems to have forgotten the fact, fought as furiously 
amongst themselves as they ever did with professors 
of rival creeds. Reid's History of the Presbyterian 
Church in Ireland is an illuminating commentary on 
the Psalm which is sung at the opening of every 
General Assembly : — 

" Behold how good it is and how becoming well 
Together those that brethren are in unitv to 

From the beginning of the eighteenth century 
Reid's pages record the furious controversies of Old 
Lights and New Lights, Burghers and Anti-Burghers, 
Seceders and Covenanters, until the long struggle 
comes to an end over one hundred years later in the 
amazing duel between Cooke and Montgomery, which 
resulted in the expulsion of the Arians and the forma- 
tion of the Remonstrant Synod. Of all these sects 
the remark made by a Presbyterian historian about 
the Burghers and Anti-Burghers holds good — 
" Ministers and members seemed more tolerant 
towards Christian bodies more widely separated from 
them in origin and creed than they were towards one 

The depth of the feud between Burgher and Anti- 
Burgher may be gauged from an incident recorded in 
The Scot of the Eighteenth Century. The daughter of 


an Anti-Burgher had married a Burgher minister, 
who at a Synod meeting expelled his wife's father 
and uncle from the fold as " anti's." When at last 
he broke the news to his wife he was met with the 
declaration : " You have excommunicated my father 
and my uncle ! You are my husband, but never more 
shall you be minister of mine ! " Cynics will be 
gratified to learn that all the pother arose over the 
question of an oath which the burgesses in some Scot- 
tish towns were compelled to swear. No such oath 
was imposed in Ireland, yet the feud between Burgher 
and Anti-Burghers in Ulster was extraordinarily deep 
and rancorous. The quarrel was even carried across 
a thousand leagues of salt water to America, where, 
as one Presbyterian writer relates, a leading Anti- 
Burgher, towards the end of the eighteenth century, 
asserted " he would rather commune with the devil in 
hell " than with a Burgher. 



The Subscription controversy raised more important 
issues than the Burgher schism, and was threshed out 
with even greater bitterness. It was Cromwell who 
appealed to Presbyterian ministers : "" My brethren, 
in the name of Christ, I beseech you to think it possible 
you may be mistaken." Two centuries after Cromwell 
the positivenes^ of the tribe was as strongly marked 
as ever ; and a dispute which everybody to-day is 
agreed could have been solved had the combatants 
possessed even a measure of sweet reasonableness 
was permitted to rend the Church into warring 
factions and to do irreparable damage to Irish Presby- 

The issue may be summed up in a few sentences. 
As a result of the " Conflict of the Seven Synods," 
which lasted from 1720 to 1726, the Moderates who 
refused to subscribe to a creed, because, in the words 
of their representatives, " they in their judgment 
are against all authoritative decisions of human tests 
of orthodoxy," had so far prevailed that at the be- 
ginning of the nineteenth century subscription was 
compulsory in only five of the fourteen Presbyteries 
in the Synod of Ulster. As the choice of ministers 
rested with congregations the people themselves had 
it in their power to penalise professors of unorthodox 
opinions, a power which they certainly were not 
slow to use. According to Presbyterian historians, 
there was a steady popular drift towards Evangeli- 
calism, and the Moderates found it increasingly 
difficult to secure pulpits. The process was not 
swift enough, however, for the more vehement 


Evangelicals and particularly for their leader, Henry 
Cooke, who, though now well nigh forgotten outside 
his native province, was as potent an influence in the 
religious and political life of Ulster as Daniel O'Con- 
nell was in that of Catholic Ireland. 

It is amazing how rarely in its history the Irish 
Presbyterian Church has produced a leader capable 
of making any appeal to the imagination. For the 
most part its spokesmen have been wofully stockish 
persons, w^ho said what they were expected to say in 
the dullest fashion possible. They appear to have 
regarded originality either of matter or style as a 
dangerous heresy, and whether in the pulpit or out of 
it, did their best to cloak their individuality beneath 
the stiff folds of their Geneva gowns. Cooke's real 
fame has suffered through the pious devotion of a 
son-in-law, whose biographical labours, unmindful 
of Boswell's example, were directed towards trans- 
forming a tiger into a tame cat. Yet even Dr. Porter's 
vapid narrative cannot wholly eliminate the daemonic 
force which enabled Cooke not merely to sway Irish 
Presbyterianism to his will more completely than any 
leader before or since, but to mould Ulster politics so 
masterfully that even Sir Edward Carson, whom his 
admirers applaud as a great innovator, is really no 
more than a doorkeeper of the structure Avhich Cooke 
designed, founded, and built. 

Cooke, who was born in 1788, entered on public life 
at a critical stage both in the theological and the 
social history of the province. Presbyterians were 
beginning to discover that the unreformed Parliament 
of Great Britain was no better, and in most things 
that concerned them was even worse, than the un- 
reformed Parliament of Ireland. The reactionary 
England of the years that followed Waterloo, which 
suppressed relentlessly the demands of her own people 
for reforms, was in no mood to listen to the appeals 


of Irish Dissenters whom her rulers, with keen memo- 
ries of the '98 Rebellion, regarded as the most 
dangerous Jacobins and Republicans in the Three 
Kingdoms. Powerful as was Toryism in England, it 
was still more powerful in Ireland, where the State 
and Church of a privileged minority exercised a 
tyranny as cruel as it was relentless. One incident 
will show the attitude of the Government towards 
the Presbyterian community. With the laudable 
desire of educating their divinity students at home 
instead of in Scotland, the Presbyterian Church 
decided to endow a chair of Theology in the Royal 
Academical Institution, Belfast, which had been 
opened in 1815. A year later two masters of the 
Institution at a dinner in honour of St. Patrick's Day 
committed the heinous offence of drinking the toast 
of " America, the land of liberty and asylum of the 
oppressed." Little foreseeing that a century later the 
United States would be to Great Britain against 
Germany what Germany was then against France, Lord 
Castlereagh withdrew the Parliamentary grant from 
the Institution, and announced that the appointment 
of a Presbyterian Professor of Divinity would be 
looked on as an act of hostility by the Government. 
It can hardly be regarded as unnatural that methods of 
this kind should revive envious memories of the prin- 
ciples of toleration and equality preached by the United 
Irishmen, though it was unfortunate for the peace of 
the Church that the men who desired reform in 
politics should have stood also for liberalism in 

To Cooke one demand was as abhorrent as the 
other. Nature meant him for a dictator ; fate, 
having placed him in a church which asserts the 
equality of all its ministers, he had to content himself 
with being, as his enemies said, " a Presbyterian 
Pope," and in the struggle to assert his authority he 


shook the fabric of Irish Presbyterianisrii to its foun- 
dations. To compare sinall things with great he was 
in his way a Bismarck who, if his field of operations 
was hmited to parishes instead of empires, dominated 
it as autocratically, insisted as firmly that old tra- 
ditions must prevail over new ideas, and dealt as 
mercilessly with his opponents. Like Bismarck he 
had plenty of humanity, and a biting wit that did not 
always respect the convenances of a formal age. His 
energy and vividness of phrase may be gathered from 
a sentence recorded by Mr. Woodburn in which, 
denouncing the proposal to establish a Presbyterian 
College in Derry, Cooke declared that " within a few 
years the foxes of Innishowen would be grinning from 
its deserted windows." A great pulpit orator, he was 
still more formidable in debate ; and in Ireland, 
North and South, the master of debate obtains pres- 
tige akin to that of a Spanish matador. Like Dr. 
Johnson, Cooke thoroughly enjoyed " goring and 
tossing " opponents, and controversy was the breath 
of his nostrils. He first came into public notice by 
his crusade against an English Unitarian missionary, 
whom he hunted from pillar to post throughout Ulster, 
bombarding him with arguments, sarcasm, and abuse. 
In later life he never shirked a challenge ; and on one 
famous occasion, having been carried from a sick-bed 
to the platform, as Chatham was on his last appearance 
in the House of Lords, Cooke, rising shortly before 
midnight, spoke for five hours by the clock, and 
after his opponents had replied concluded another 
long oration as the dawn of a March morning 
brightened the windows. 

One of Cooke's dearest ambitions was to measure 
swords with Daniel O'Connell in a public discussion. It 
is a thousand pities the duel never took place, for if 
Cooke carried less heavy metal than O'Connell he 
was the one man in Ireland who could have met the 


Liberator in controversy on something like equal 
terms. On the occasion of O'Connell's visit to Belfast 
Cooke issued a formal challenge, but O'Connell 
declined it ; and to this day good Presbyterians are 
convinced that it was fear of their champion that led 
to the refusal. Amongst old-fashioned Orangemen 
*' the Cooke that dished Dan " is still a favourite 
toast. If O'Connell avoided battle at close quarters, 
he had to submit to a long range bombardment ; and 
the following extract taken almost at random from 
one of his numerous anti- O'Connell tirades is a good 
example of the style of invective in which Cooke 
excelled. '' You argue for civil and religious liberty ! 
Like the ' Amen ' in the throat of Macbeth, the very 
words would endanger strangulation, and would so 
vividly conjure up before you the foul mysteries of 
the Confessional and the horrid rack of the Inquisition 
that you would shrink from the cause you had pro- 
posed to advocate, and become the convert of that 
Protestant liberty you have hitherto laboured to 

It is not surprising to learn that one of Cooke's treas- 
ures was a ring with the motto Nulla pax cum Roma, 
presented to him by an adoring lady, whose contempt 
for Romish superstition seems to have extended to 
the language of its ancient inhabitants. In the letter 
accompanying the ring this lady declared, " the Lord 
has graciously given me the principle of ' No Peace 
with Rome,' together with a sincere desire to act it 
out in every possible way. But to you He has vouch- 
safed both opportunity and power to wage a war 
against His accursed foe." Popery was not more 
repellent to Cooke than Liberalism. In his view, 
indeed, as he declared in a famous address, " the 
priesthood and clergy of Rome, the Socinian, and the 
Infidel formed a threefold cord which is not easily 
broken." On another occasion, contrasting the de- 


generate Presbyterians of 1830 with their stern and 
unbending ancestors, he asserted, in words that would 
have dehghted Lord Eldon and the framers of the 
Six Acts, '' the spirit of LiberaHsm has infected many 
of them hke a leprosy ; and they must have it scourged 
out, or turned out, for it will not go out." To scourge 
this taint out of the Presbyterian Church was in 
Cooke's eyes a holy mission to which he devoted 
himself with the ardour of a crusader. No one who 
studies his career with unbiassed mind can doubt 
that his determination to compel his fellow-ministers 
to subscribe to a formal creed was inspired by a 
sincere religious conviction ; but it is also clear 
enough, to my mind, that the fact that the opponents 
of subscription were in the main Whigs, if not 
Radicals, whetted his appetite for the work. 

The Arians, as they were termed, though many of 
them were in no sense Arians but Presbyterians 
who held that subscription to a creed was con- 
trary to the tenets of their faith, did not submit 
without a struggle. They found in Henry Mont- 
gomery, the pastor of Dunmurry, a leader who 
equalled Cooke in his genius for debate, and surpassed 
him as a master of stately eloquence. The rivals, 
wlio for three years fought battle after battle in the 
Church courts, had in their 'teens been fellow-students 
at Glasgow University, but even then a wide gap 
divided them. Cooke's political creed, according to 
himself, was fixed by the sight of the soldiers burning 
a neighbour's house in 1798, and fixed in opposition 
to what he loved to call the " pernicious principles " 
of the French Revolution. " Atheism and infidelity," 
his biographer states, " were boldly avowed by the 
leaders of the United Irishmen, while the loyalists 
were in general Orthodox." Montgomery, on the 
other hand, always declared that " the Rebellion was 
in its origin, and almost to its end, an Ulster Rebellion 


and a Presbyterian Rebellion." House-burning had 
also its effect on Montgomery's principles, though, 
unlike Cooke, he did not learn at the expense of a 
neighbour. After the battle of Antrim his father's 
house was first looted and then fired by Orange 
yeomen, and the whole Montgomery family were left 
with nothing but the clothes they stood in as a punish- 
ment for " merely asserting," as Montgomery wrote 
half a century afterwards, " those ordinary human 
rights and self-evident principles of Government, 
whose advocacy has since commanded the applause 
of senates, and secured the respect of the world." 

While Cooke was never weary of sounding a call 
to arms against what he described as " fierce demo- 
cracy on the one hand and more terrible Popery on 
the other," Montgomery was an avowed democrat, 
and so strenuous a supporter of the Catholic claims 
that at a meeting in favour of Emancipation held in 
Donegall Street Chapel, Belfast, in 1829, he addressed 
the gathering from the altar with the Catholic Bishop 
standing by his side. In returning thanks for the 
welcome accorded to him, Montgomery expressed a 
sentiment which, had it been made a rule of action 
by those in authority, might have changed the whole 
history of Ireland. " When even the expression of 
common sympathy," he said, " produces such a de- 
monstration of grateful and kindly feelings, it ought to 
be a lesson to our legislators, and prove to them what 
they might expect from the Irish people if they treated 
them as justice and sound policy would dictate." 

Montgomery was one of the first champions of 
Ulster tenant-right, and his letters on the conditions 
prevailing on the Hertford Estates in Antrim, where 
Protestant farmers were as shamefully rack- 
rented as the Catholic tenants of Munster or 
Connacht, constitute a notable chapter in the 
history of the Land Question. Here again his 


views were sharply in conflict with those of Cooke, 
to whom the idea of tenant-right was, in 
his own words, " rank communism." When a 
speaker in the Synod of Belfast, as late as 1850, dared 
to protest against the iniquity of a system under which 
a small minority swallowed up the profits and pro- 
perty of nine-tenths of the province, Cooke burst into 
a furious tirade against the preaching of Socialism 
in Church Courts. Pressed by hisopponents to define 
Socialism, Cooke's reply was, " attacks on the nobility 
and aristocracy of the land, thus violating the Word 
of God which says ' Thou shalt not speak evil of the 
ruler of My people.' " 

At a time when Presbyterians were forced to pay 
tithes to enrich a Church which had persecuted them 
for two hundred years, and were robbed of their 
rights by landlords for whom they had nevertheless 
to vote at the polls under threat of eviction, when 
the social boycott was so strong that a Presbyterian 
candidate had no chance in an Ulster constituency, 
and their wealthiest merchants and manufacturers in 
Belfast were excluded from the Commission of the 
Peace, Cooke had the hardihood to declare that " the 
real blood-shedder in Ireland is agitation." " The 
insatiate Moloch," he proclaimed, " demands the 
sacrifice, and the blood is shed by his worshippers to 
appease his appetite." 

Yet Cooke won the battle all along the line, 
and his victory is in the real sense a triumph of 
personality over reason. By the expulsion of the 
non-Subscribers in 1829 he drove the Liberal and 
cultured element out of the Presbyterian Church, 
paving the way for that political union with the 
Ascendancy which was the end and aim of his policy. 
" Protestant union and co-operation " were his 
favourite mottoes ; and in a speech at Hillsborough 
in 1834 he published what he declared to be " the 


banns of a sacred marriage " between the Irish 
Protestant Churches. This union had an offensive as 
well as a defensive significance. It was intended, in 
Cooke's own words, not only to " satisfy the reason- 
able and the loyal," but " to awe the destructive and 
the factious." In blunter language, it proposed to 
modify for the benefit of Protestant Dissenters alone 
the eighteenth century policy, under which, as has 
been said, " A privileged controversy and a privileged 
church tyrannised over the Protestant population 
and the Protestant Dissenters, who, by way of 
recompense for their submission, were allowed to 
tyrannise in turn over the Roman Catholic com- 

Episcopalian bishops and clergy cheered Cooke to 
the echo while he was fighting their political battles ; 
when he ventured to claim, on behalf of Presby- 
terianism, religious equality with the Establishment 
they were as outraged as would be a patron of the 
ring should a professional pugilist seek to thrust 
himself into his family circle. At the zenith of 
Cooke's fame in 1848 a parson more liberal than his 
fellows invited him to preach a charity sermon on a 
week-day in the parish church of Termoneeny, 
Donegal. Immediately a furious outburst arose that 
a mere " Presbyterian teacher," as he was described, 
should have dared to invade " a consecrated edifice 
in which the rites and ceremonies and public minis- 
trations of the United Churches of England and 
Ireland are, or ought to be, conducted, as by law 
directed." The luckless incumbent was warned by the 
Bishop of the diocese of the risks entailed in such an 
infringement of the canon law ; and, according to a 
letter which was published in the Irish Ecclesiastical 
Journal, hastened to signify " his sorrow that he had 
been induced to act in any way contrary to the usages 
or laws of the Church." 


If Cooke's schemes triumphed in the long run the 
communion to which he was devoted did not escape 
scot free. It was not a CathoHc, not even an Arian, 
but an orthodox Presbyterian minister who had the 
courage to assert, while Cooke was still the virtual 
dictator of the Church : "I look upon Dr. Cooke as 
having done more to injure Presbyterianism by 
dragging it through the mud of party spirit than the 
next fifty years will see remedied." The same critic, 
in a striking passage, written in 1861, put his finger 
on the root of the evil : " To us all other causes of 
the moral paralysis which seems to have seized the 
Presbyterian Church in working out a better day for 
Ireland sink into insignificance when placed beside 
one cause, namely, the one-sided party interpretation 
of certain passages of the Bible, making them apply 
solely, definitely, and prophetically to the Roman 
Catholic community. The expressions — ' Man of 
Sin,' ' Mystery of Iniquity,' ' Scarlet- clothed Harlot ' 
— are by every itinerant orator applied to the most 
venerable of European religious organisations. Seeing 
the effects produced by such interpretations and 
such preachings might have led thoughtful men to 
pause and examine their Scripturality — seeing that 
ideas which bring punishment on poor shivering 
wretches were first employed and taught from the 
pulpit, and used to bring down immense applause 
even in meetings of the General Assembly — seeing 
that multitudes even in the metropolis of Ulster arc 
only prevented by military force from imbruing their 
hands in each other's blood, should make Presby- 
terian Ministers doubtful of the divine origin of such 
ideas as part of a holy religion. But if it should turn 
out that these interpretations are false . . . what 
repentance for past folly, what deep sorrow for a 
misused Bible lie before our Church ! " 

The warning fell on deaf ears at the time, and has 


remained unheeded ever since. It is true, and it 
should not be forgotten, that there have always been 
Presbyterian Ministers who were less concerned about 
the sins of the Vatican than the shortcomings of their 
own communion. They sought to be pro-Presbyterian, 
not merely anti- Catholic, and declined to be deterred 
from advocating measures that would benefit their 
flocks because these measures were demanded by 
Nationalists. Even Cooke's influence was not strong 
enough to prevent Synods and General Assemblies 
adopting resolutions in favour of tenant-right ; and, 
in spite of all the thunders of the Carson campaign, 
the number of ministers who supported the Third 
Home Rule Bill was much larger than those who 
ventured a timid approval of the Gladstonian 
measures. But, at the best, these are a tiny if an 
influential minority, and the policy of Cooke is still 
on all great issues the policy of the Church. One 
consequence of this is that Presby terianism can rarely 
rise above a sectional appeal. Cooke, who held 
himself to be " a Minister of the Church of Scotland 
in Ireland," was, in his own view, as much a member 
of a garrison in the ecclesiastical sense as Tory land- 
lords were in the political sense. Nowadays we hear 
more of " the Presbyterian Church in Ireland," but 
unfortunately, the Cooke tradition that it is " in " 
Ireland and not " of " it remains unbroken ; and 
political events of recent years have accentuated its 
aloofness and stereotyped its provincialism. 

The proof that the purge of Arians and liberals, and 
the new orientation given to Presbyterian policy by 
Cooke, had resulted in an increased fervour and a 
deeper spirituality is generally held to be the extra- 
ordinary outburst of religious enthusiasm known as 
" The Revival of 1859." Cooke was still the strongest 
personality in the Church when the Revival took 
place ; and though he gave it his blessing, and it 

114 THE Religious question 

appeared to many to be the crown and coping-stone 
of his labours, no reference to it, singularly enough, 
appears in his official biography. 

To the rank and file of Ulster Presbyterians the 
Revival was, and still is, the most momentous re- 
ligious event of the last centur}^ ; but their leaders 
and guides, if thrilled, were also perplexed, as may 
be seen by the utterances of the General Assembly 
held in July, 1859, when, after expressing in one 
resolution " profound thankfulness " for this out- 
pouring of the Spirit, three supplementary resolutions 
were carried, warning their flocks against " mistaking 
bodily impressions or even conviction of sin for 
genuine conversion," and entreating " ministers and 
members to watch against the introduction, from any 
quarter, of error in doctrine or practice, lest Satan 
should get an advantage over us, and the Spirit of 
truth be forced to withdraw." 

This perplexity was, I admit, natural enough. 
Ulster Presbyterianism, as might be expected from 
its Calvinistic bias, has always been suspicious 
of emotionalism in religion. When the rank and 
file of its congregations took to dreaming dreams 
and seeing visions its leaders found themselves in 
much the same predicament as an Anglican bishop 
would be if his flock insisted on accompanying 
the responses by banging tambourines, and punctu- 
ated his sermon with groans and ejaculations. 
The origins of the Revival have never been 
satisfactorily analysed, but contemporary accounts 
leave little doubt that the impulse came from the 
pew rather than the pulpit. Converts were the most 
energetic missionaries ; and in districts where the 
enthusiasm blazed up most fiercely it is clear 
enough, to my mind, that many of the clergy felt 
their influence and authority were being gravely 


In a pamphlet entitled The Year of Delusion, 
issued as a counterblast to the Year of Or ace, which 
embodies the official record of the " Awakening" 
— as the Revival was called — Rev. Isaac Nelson 
challenged the orthodoxy of the whole movement 
from the point of view of Presbyterian theology. He 
was particularly critical of the physical manifestations 
which played such a part in the Revival. When one 
scans the literature of the time in which these physical 
manifestations are described, one ceases to wonder 
why scenes and incidents of the Revival still haunt 
the memory of an older generation in Ulster. " I 
witnessed," wrote a Scottish clergyman from Port rush, 
in 1859, " the smiting down in every phase of its 
development — from the simple swoon to the prostra- 
tion accompanied by the most fearful convulsions of 
the bodily frame, and overwhelming mental anguish, 
venting itself in piercing cries for mercy or wailing 
notes of despair." At one meeting some two hundred 
men were " stricken down " in the space of a few 
hours. What the process of being " stricken " 
entailed may be gleaned from an account by the 
Rev. Thomas Y. Killen, of Ballykelly, of the con- 
version of a man who had scoffed at the Revival, and 
was afterwards discovered prostrated on his own 
floor. " His friends heard his cries, and came and 
found him writhing on the ground. For three- 
quarters of an hour he was dreadfully convulsed 
while it required several strong men to hold him. 
His first cry was ' A knife ! A knife ! ' then, ' It's 
too late ! It's too late.' Then, ' He's dragging me 
down ! ' And at last, ' Lord Jesus, have mercy on 
me, save me.' . . . W^hen he got somewhat better 
he said Satan coiled himself round him and was 
dragging him down to Hell, which seemed like the 
crater of a great volcano." In another case, this time 
of a little girl, we are told " It took four men to hold 


her. She had seen the Lord ! " These child converts 
became missionaries in their turn, and their platform 
displays were, I suspect, not always to the liking of 
the official preachers. 

In his Home Life in Ireland Mr. Robert Lynd tells 
us, on the authority of a lady who attended many 
revival services that " women used to be carried out 
from the churches into the open air with all and sundry 
dragging at the hoops of their crinolines." It was 
not only in churches that prostration occurred. 
Children at their desks in school would suddenly be 
seized with exaltation ; in several places mills and 
factories had to be closed down for days ; and on one 
occasion compositors, a class not ordinarily given 
to hysteria, were so overcome by religious fervour 
that the publication of a Coleraine paper was held up 
Ibr twenty-four hours. 

From a contemporary narrative by the Rev. 
AVilliam Magill, of Dundrod, Co. Antrim, I extract 
what seems to me the best impression of the 
manner in which the Revival spirit worked in 
country places : " When I visited the district," 
this minister says, '' I found that all labour was 
completely suspended, and that all the people 
were running in groups from house to house. The 
mom^ning was in its extent, if not in its nature, like 
that of Egypt. In some houses at one time I counted 
more than a score, old and young, more or less 
affected. The people here seemed ' to take it ' with 
wonderful rapidity. The graveyard is filled with 
groups, singing and praying around the prostrate 
bodies of men and women. Some are as in a trance, 
others crying for mercy. Some are still falling into 
the arms of friends, and sinking as into a swoon. 
Some stagger to a distance and drop on their knees 
to pray over the graves of the dead ; and a few rush 
to the gates and flee in terror from the scene. The 


converts are flying iVom group to group, and raise 
the loud shout of triumph as one after another, hke 
the Jailor of Philippi, is seen to be trembling, and 
heard crying, ' What shall I do to be saved ? ' Up 
to this evening the work had gone on chiefly among 
the females. Soon, however, the men were impressed ; 
and I shall never forget the look and shout of joy witli 
which one of these females proclaimed the triumph 
of the Lord, when strong men were writhing in agony, 
or stretched out still and calm, but with clasped 
hands and heaving heart, on the graves around. I 
think I see her now — her bonnet hanging behind her 
head, her Bible in her hand above her head — and I 
still hear her shout ' The men are coming now ! The 
men are coming now ! ' For ten days more the whole 
country was in a state of intense excitement. There 
was a regular chain of meetings kept up night and 

From the North of Antrim, where the first mani- 
festations were displayed, the fire spread rapidly 
south, until by midsummer, 1859, practically the 
whole of Presbyterian Ulster was ablaze. The en- 
thusiasm was even more vehement in the towns than 
in the rural districts. Rev. William M'llwaine, an 
Episcopalian clergyman, who does not conceal his 
dislike of the movement, has drawn a curious picture 
of the " Awakening " in Belfast. " Multitudes oL' 
terrified people," he writes, " hastening under an 
unknown influence . . . ' to receive the Revival ' 
(that was one of the phrases employed), screams of 
the most unearthly description proceeding from 
places of professedly Christian worship at all hours 
of the day and night, girls with dishevelled hair and 
pallid faces conveyed to all parts of the town, sup- 
ported in the arms of young men and young women, 
to their homes from the churches where they had 
been struck — these were some of the phases of that 


Revivalism which all were commanded to believe as 
from above, under pain of being unchristianised and 
publicly prayed for as heathen." 

One change wrought by the Revival, unfortunately, 
did not prove lasting. According to Dr. Killen, " in 
1859 the Twelfth of July — the great political anni- 
versary of Ulster Protestants — was kept in a way 
which it had never been kept before. Even in Sandy 
Row — a portion of Belfast long noted as the grand 
theatre for the orgies and broils of Orangemen — 
that day passed without disturbance. No drums 
were heard ; no drunken Protestants were seen 
staggering through the streets cursing the Pope and 
breathing out threatenings and slaughter against 
Romanists ; but in many of its dwellings were heard 
the notes of grave sweet psalmody and the voice of 

It was in the towns as a rule that the strangest 
phenomena of the Revival w^ere encountered. These 
wxre cases of the '' sleepers," as they were called, who 
fell into death-like trances, having given warning 
beforehand of the hour at which the seizure would 
take place, and the hour at w^hich they would again 
recover their senses. The best analysis of this side of 
the movement is to be found in a pamphlet, The 
Work and the Counterwork by Archdeacon Stopford 
of Meath, who visited Belfast expressly to investi- 
gate the seizures. Archdeacon Stopford was an 
impartial as well as a singularly acute observer, as 
one would expect from the father of the distinguished 
Iiistorian, Mrs. J. R. Green, who told me that this 
was one of the few works on the shelves of her father's 
library which as a child she was not permitted to read. 
The first thing that struck Archdeacon Stopford in 
Belfast was that the cries uttered by those who w^ere 
" stricken " exactly reproduced the unearthly wail of 
Edward Irving' s prophetess, which had thrilled him 


so strangely in London years before. He insists, in 
contradiction to what is now the orthodox view of 
the movement, that " bodily illness came to be co- 
extensive with the Revival." " Almost every girl," 
he says, " struck down in Belfast has visions. She 
would be greatly disappointed if she had not ; she 
would think it only half done, and would probably 
pray to be ' struck ' again." One unfortunate girl 
who suffered seventy seizures, and sometimes had 
as many as seven in a single day, lost her speech and 
the use of her limbs. Although the Presbyterian 
Church professed not to lay stress on physical mani- 
festations. Archdeacon Stopford's investigations con- 
vinced him that some Revival preachers had carefully 
studied how to produce hysteria, and worked deli- 
berately to this end. They boasted their toll of 
" stricken " converts as proudly as a Red Indian 
flourished his scalps. 

In addition to the " stricken " and the " sleepers," 
there were also well authenticated instances of 
converts on whose bodies were imprinted strange 
signs and symbols which the common folk implicitly 
believed to be the work of supernatural agency. 
Presbyterian clergymen did not hesitate to accept 
stories such as that of the militiaman who, profanely 
throwing bullets on the road for a bet in liquor — a 
favourite pastime in Ulster country districts — had 
his arm v/ithered by his side ; or revelations like that 
recounted by Rev. John Whitsitt of a prayer meeting 
at Drum, County Monaghan, where a dark cloud 
gathered on the ceiling from which forms burst forth, 
one of them " of a human appearance which passed 
and repassed across all the lights and descended to the 
pew in which a young girl was rejoicing." Nor 
did the ministers shrink from tackling the job of 
casting out devils, as may be seen by this extract 
quoted by Archdeacon Stopford from a sermon which 


he heard at Belfast at the cHmax of the Revival. " I 
was called two days after," said the preacher, " to 
see a little girl who had been dumb for three weeks. 
She had been using her tongue in idle and rash talking, 
and thus had God punished her. It was a dumb devil 
that possessed her. Had you but seen how she 
struggled and how she screeched and how the devil 
tore her, you would have known it was a dumb devil 
that went out of her at the prayer of faith." The 
stigmata, however, were too much in the tradition of 
Catholic miracles to be palatable to the orthodox 
Presbyterian mind, and to admit them would have 
created an extremely awkward precedent. Once they 
began to be common official Presbyterianism began 
to hedge, and it has been hedging about the Revival 
ever since. 

The only parallel to the '59 Revival in Ulster 
history of which I am aware is to be found in the 
records of the first generation of settlers. In 1625, 
at Oldstone, near Killcad — the native parish, by the 
way, of Montgomery, the Arian champion — a move- 
ment was originated by the Rev. James Glendinning, 
who, " seeing the great lewdness and ungodly sinful- 
ness of the people, preached to them nothing but law, 
wrath, and the terrors of sin," with the result, as 
Stewart of Bangor states, that '' I have seen them 
myself stricken and swoon with the Word — yea, a 
dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so 
marvellous was the power of God smiting their hearts 
for sin, condemning and killing." Glendinning, 
however, was, if his contemporaries are to be believed, 
"■ a man wl o never would have been chosen by a wise 
assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation 
in this land, for he was little better than distracted." 
Certainly some of his " conceits " were weird enough. 
He evolved a theory that '' he or she who, after having 
slept a little in bed, turned from one side to the other, 


could not be an honest Christian ; " and proclaimed 
that " whoever would join with him in a ridiculous 
way of roaring out some prayer, laying their faces on 
the earth, would be undoubtedly converted or saved." 

Blair, the minister of Bangor, who was sent for on 
one occasion to wean Glendinning from his " er- 
roneous conceits," had a curious experience. " After 
supper, they being alone, only his wife sitting by, he 
(Glendinning) asked Mr. Blair if he would believe he 
was in the right if his foot could not burn in the fire. 
Mr. Blair answered if he offered to do so he would 
be still more confirmed that he was a deluded man, 
but before Mr. Blair had spoken the words his foot 
was in the midst of the fire, he holding the lintel 
(of the fireplace) with both his hands ; but Mr. Blair 
pulled so hard that both were thrown into the midst 
of the floor." 

This did not end Blair's adventures on this memor- 
able occasion. The fanatic insisted that his visitor 
must share his bed with him. '' Being laid, he 
presently fell asleep, but Mr. Blair, though having 
fasted all day, yet, remembering the condition was 
short, continued fasting and praying. There was not 
one hour past when his wife, who lay in another room, 
came in muttering that the matter was revealed to her, 
and that the Day of Judgment was presently coming. 
Mr. Blair, who had not so much as warmed in the bed, 
being somewhat astonished, did rise also, and got 
courage to encounter these deluded enthusiasts, and 
set them to open their revelations, not doubting to 
find absurdities and contradictions therein ; they in 
the meantime being so confident as to desire him to 
write to carnal friends lest they should be surprise(i 
at the coming of that Day. . . . He, inviting Mr. 
Blair to pray, did begin himself. Mr. Blair stood to 
see' his new way (formerly mentioned) whereby he 
hoped to convert Mr. Blair. When he had seen and 


heard the absurdities thereof, in their idle roaring 
repetitions, he requiring him in the Lord's name to be 
silent, kneeled down and prayed with humble con- 
fidence, hoping to be heard. . . . When Mr. Blair 
had ended, Mr. Glendinning took him apart and con- 
fessed that he saw how he was deluded, and entreated 
Mr. Blair to see how the matter might be covered and 

The cure, however, was not permanent. Adair tells 
us in a tantalising sentence that Glendinning, '' falling 
from evil to evil, did at last run away to visit the 
Seven Churches of Asia." Most readers will agree, I 
think, that we could well have spared some of the 
parochial details in which Adair revels for a glimpse 
of Glendinning and his wife — I assume she took part 
in the pilgrimage — introducing eastern Christians to 
their new method of prayer. 

Blair, as might be guessed from his dealings with 
Glendinning, had little sympathy with what Huxley 
called " corybantic religion." To him the convul- 
sions and the striking down of converts were simply 
devices of Satan who, " playing the ape upon some 
ignorant person, did counterfeit the work of the 
Lord." To quote Adair again : " One of Mr. Blair's 
charge, in the midst of public worship, being a dull 
and ignorant person, made a noise, stretching her 
body incontinent. Mr. Blair rebuked that lying spirit 
which disturbed the worship of God, charging the 
same, in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, not 
to disturb the congregation ; and, through God's 
mercy, they met with no more of that work." Seven- 
teenth century pastors dealt much more drastically 
with enthusiasts than their Victorian descendants, 
who regarded criticism of the extravagances of 1859 
as something little short of blasphemy. It was not 
till the last Revival was flickering out that the cold fit 
followed the hot ; and the extent of the reaction 


may be gauged by a comparison of the reports of 
ministers of actual happenings in their congregations 
with the discreetly sub-edited narratives embodied in 
The Year of Grace. 

The orthodox policy is now to minimise the 
'' physical excitement," and lay stress on cases where 
the process of conversion was " a purely spiritual one 
carried on in the sanctuary of the mind." Such cases 
were common enough, and this type of convert proved, 
as a rule, a better asset to the Church than those 
whose changes of heart had taken place under more 
melodramatic circumstances. But it is obvious to 
any student of the episode that it was the physical 
manifestations that gave the Revival its driving 
force, and awed all classes, in the words of a Presby- 
terian historian, '' by the presence of a great and 
mysterious visitation." The more closely I study the 
origin and developments of the movement the 
stronger becomes my conviction that the exhibitions 
which detracted so much from the moral influence it 
undoubtedly exercised on the popular mind, would 
have been, if not utterly suppressed, at least restrained 
had the liberal and cultured wing of the Presbyterian 
Church not been banished from the fold by Cooke. 
Men like Montgomery and his fellows would not have 
feared to urge the importance of moderation and 
sanity ; as a matter of fact they did urge it, but, of 
course, they could speak only as outsiders. It was 
the inability not only of the rank and file of the 
ministry but of its responsible leaders to distinguish 
between charlatanism and evangelical fervour that 
makes the Revival anything but a glorious episode 
m the historv of the Irish Presbyterian Church. 



Ox the occasion of the Jubilee of the " Awakening " 
in 1909 it was proclaimed that the fires of 1859 were 
to be rekindled. Resolutions were adopted by the 
General Assembly, and bands of ministers held 
weekly prayer meetings in Belfast to ask for a sign. 
But the attempt was at the best half-hearted ; and 
it was plain that if some genuinely desired a second 
religious upheaval, others feared its drawbacks might 
outweigh its benefits. In any case there was not even 
a hint of a popular response ; and with a change of 
front, amazing to anybody who does not know Ulster, 
the ministers in a ludicrously short time transformed 
prayers for a Revival into prayers for the " Present 
Crisis," and were more concerned about the defeat 
of the Home Rule Bill and the triumph of Sir Edward 
Carson than about a new awakening of religious 
fervour. This transformation seems to me typical of 
the whole attitude of the Presbyterian Church since 
Cooke's strong hands shaped its policy. Probably 
it was inevitable, in the existing state of affairs in 
Ulster, that the energies of its leaders should become 
more and more absorbed in politics ; and, I freely 
admit, that with the overwhelming majority of its 
ministers this absorption springs from a conviction 
no less honest than fervent. But it has led to results 
which are not a little disconcerting to good Presby- 
terians. Like other Protestant denominations, the 
Presbyterian Church has not found it an easy problem 
to maintain its hold in industrial centres. The very 
qualities that were the strength of Calvinism in the 
past — its fine austerity, its relentless logic, its lack of 


ornament — weaken its appeal to a population 
nourished on the emotionalism of the music-hall 
and the sensational Press. It is a ereed that needs 
country soil if it is to strike its roots deep, and it does 
not take kindly to the dust and din of cities. Nor can 
its stern simplicity be reconciled with the desire for 
display that is typical of money-making communities 
all the world over. The whitewashed, barn-like 
meeting houses of rural Ulster possess character if 
not beauty, and by association have become part of 
the landscape ; but the Gothic atrocities in red-brick 
that disfigure the streets of Belfast are less temples 
than tombs of a faith. In vain are the efforts of a 
newer school of Presbyterian ministers to brighten 
up the services with boisterous hymn-tunes and 
" stunts " adapted from American revivalists. Cal- 
vinism tricked out in such trimmings cuts as in- 
congruous a figure as would a precise Victorian lady 
in the billowing skirts of a columbine. These shep- 
herds may pipe with might and main, but their flocks 
do not dance, or if they feel in a dancing mood they 
resort to pipers who provide more sprightly music. 

Ulster Presbyterianism had learned to resign itself 
to the defection of a section of its wealthier members 
who imagine that adhesion to the Episcopal Church 
improves their social standing, but the weakening of 
its hold on the working classes in industrial centres is 
a much more ominous sign. In modern times at least 
it has never been the Church of the poor, a fact which, 
strangely enough, some of its leaders appear to regard 
as a merit instead of a damning defect. Thus Killen, 
in his continuation of Reid's History, points with 
enormous complacency to the statistics of Irish 
pauperism to demonstrate the superior respect- 
ability of Presbyterians to Episcopalians and 
Catholics, and data of the same kind were freely 
employed in all the Home Rule campaigns. Whatever 


value they may have had as political propaganda, a 
doctor of divinity, even in mid-Victorian days, 
should have seen the absurdity of adducing them as 
a proof of religious vitality. At this rate the Scribes 
and Pharisees might have laid far more convincing 
figures before Pilate to prove the superiority of their 
belief to that of the ragged followers of the Nazarene. 
A religion which makes a virtue of a purely middle- 
class appeal is a strange hybrid to spring from the 
doctrine of Him Whom the middle-class of His day 
denounced as '' gluttonous and a wine-bibber, a 
friend of publicans and sinners." 

If the views of its spokesmen are to be accepted, it 
is now with the lower middle-class — to use a hateful 
term — that Presbyterianism is losing its influence. At 
every General Assembly there rises a louder wail over 
the lapsed masses in the cities who are Presbyterians 
only for the purpose of the census returns ; and the 
evil, though many plans have been proposed to deal with 
it, grows more formidable with each succeeding year. 

In country places the old rigid orthodoxy still holds 
sway, as was shown by a curious incident at Castle- 
caulfield. County Tyrone, in the summer of 1917. As a 
protest against the introduction of instrumental music 
and hymn-singing, a dozen members of the congrega- 
tion, mainly well-to-do farmers, forced an entrance into 
the Presbyterian church one Sunday before morning 
service, carried off a portable organ which had been 
installed under the pulpit, flung it on a tombstone in 
the graveyard, and battered it to pieces with a 
hammer. " Then," according to the Belfast Evening 
Telegraph, " they sat on the wall until a few minutes 
before the service started, when they entered the 
building quietly and took 'their pews. The service 
commenced at twelve noon with the singing of a hymn. 
On a given signal the objectors rose and left the build- 
ing as a protest against the singing of hymns." 


The Cromwellian spirit is not so easily aroused in 
the towns over questions of ritual, and on still more 
important issues there are signs of a growing laxity. 
I can scarcely imagine a Presbyterian leader nowadays 
solemnly arraigning a fellow-minister on the score of 
Sabbath-breaking as Cooke did Montgomery for 
having read a newspaper on a Sunday, and for the 
still more heinous crime that, on another occasion, 
" following the meeting of the Synod in Coleraine in 
1825, he spent the day in admiring the sublime and 
beautiful in nature amidst the picturesque scenery 
of Dov/nhill instead of attending Sabbath worship in 
the nearest Presbyterian meeting-house." 

In theory there is still adhesion to the ideal of 
the Shorter Catechism that " the Sabbath is to be 
sanctified by a holy resting all that day even from 
such worldly employments and recreations as are 
lawful on other days, and spending the whole time 
in the public and private exercises of God's worship." 
Quite recently a letter appeared in the Belfast papers 
tracing all the crimes of Prussianism to the fact that 
" Germany kept no Sabbath day." Not so long ago 
it was the French against whom such zealots thun- 
dered for tolerating the abominations of " the Con- 
tinental Sunday," but a certain type of Calvinistic 
theologian does not scruple to fling logic to the winds 
if by discarding it he can score a point in controversy. 
Thus, in one breath, we are told that in the matter of 
Sabbath observance there is little to choose between 
Belfast and Berlin, and, in the next, that Ulster 
Presbyterianism has been divinely appointed to 
chastise, and finally overthrow, German Atheism. I 
notice, also, that German " ruthlessness " has be- 
come a good stick wherewith to assail German "Higher 
Criticism," which has always been a bugbear to the 
orthodox in Ulster as elsewhere. " By their fruits 
she shall know them," is the text of a good many 


sermons from Presbyterian pulpits nowadays, but I 
would be more impressed by their reasoning if I did 
not suspect that had France and Italy been ranged 
against Great Britain we should have been hearing 
from the same people that not Biblical criticism but 
Catholicism was the real menace to European civilisa- 
tion. As it is, Catholicism has not escaped scathless. 
The Vatican came in for as much abuse from the 
divines as the Wilhelmstrasse got from the politicians ; 
and whatever the experts may say in future about 
the causes of the Italian defeat at Caporetto, Ulster 
Unionists had no hesitation at the time in attributing 
it directly to the machinations of the Pope. 

To the outsider Belfast is till a great citadel of 
orthodoxy, where the chiu-ch-going habit is probably 
stronger than in Glasgow or Aberdeen. But those 
who know it intimately are well aware that the 
jeremiads of its pastors over the decay of enthusiasm 
are not mere scaremongering. Relatively to other 
centres it may hold its own ; as compared with its 
record of a generation ago there has been a sad falling 
away from grace. Even as late as the 'nineties it was 
the pleasant habit of the youths in Unionist quarters 
to bombard Sunday trains with volleys of stones on 
the assumption they were bound to hit a Nationalist 
since no good Protestant would break the Sabbath in 
this fashion. Nowadays it is Protestants who do most 
of the travelling, and parsons themselves patronize 
Sunday trams, against which in my young days they 
hurled anathemas that would not have been too 
strong had the target been the Car of Juggernaut 

To be a Sabbath breaker was not so long ago 
only one degree worse than to be a theatre-goer. 
Cooke, though he swayed his congregations by 
his mastery of the actor's art, held the stage in 
abhorrence ; and a contemporary has given a vivid 


impression of one of his famous addresses on 
" the sin of theatricals." " The doctor," we are 
told, " entered, dressed in his Geneva gown and 
bands, and ascended to the pulpit with all the 
dignity of a monarch mounting the steps of a throne, 
and all the stern gravity of a judge about to pronounce 
sentence of death ; and the people, for lack of room, 
crept quietly up the stairs after the preacher till they 
gained the summit, and outside the pulpit door stood 
on a level with himself." According to the narrator, 
" the burning flood of fiery declamation was as 
irresistible as a cataract from the hills," and 
" theatricals in Belfast received a shock that evening 
from which they have not yet recovered." The boy- 
cott of the theatre still remains in force, but official 
Ulster Presbyterianism, if it jibs at Shaw and Synge, 
has taken the kinema to its heart, and on Saturday 
nights turns its Church House into a picture palace, 
where cowboy dramas and sentimental " scenas " are 
cheered by larger audiences than attend the sederunts 
of the General Assembly. 

If theological laxity is increasing, Belfast politically 
is as furiously Protestant as ever. Practical separa- 
tion from the Church appears, amongst the poorer 
classes at least, to increase rather than diminish 
enthusiasm for its abstract principles, a state of 
affairs as bewildering to outside observers as it is 
disturbing to the heads of the various Protestant 
denominations. Yet the phenomenon is not new in 
Ulster history. A century ago Canning, who had 
enough Ulster blood in his veins to know what he 
was talking about, laughed at Orangemen as fanatics 
'' who damn the Pope and never darken a church 
door." The remark has even more point to-day than 
when it was first uttered. " Twelfth of July Protes- 
tants " — men whose attendance at church is limited 
to the Sunday preceding the great Orange festival — 



are continually denounced from Orange pulpits, yet 
their number steadily increases. Nor, to my mind, 
is the reason difficult to find. I am convinced it is 
part of the price paid for the triumph of the policy, 
initiated by Cooke and developed by his successors, 
of making the Church a formidable political instru- 

This tendency became a fixed determination, or, 
it would be more accurate to say, an obsession, in the 
days of Sir Edward Carson's campaign. Not fear of 
God, but hatred of the Pope and the Nationalists, 
was proclaimed to be the beginning of wisdom ; and 
the test of orthodoxy became less adhesion to the 
tenets of the Shorter Catechism than to the principles 
of the Ulster Covenant. If this had its tragical side 
in the rigid boycott of pastors and laymen who had 
the temerity to object, it had also its ludicrous aspects. 
At a time when Ulster's energies were supposed 
to be absorbed in winning the war it became necessary 
to appoint a new Professor of Hebrew and Biblical 
Criticism in the Presbyterian College, Belfast. Forth- 
with a furious newspaper controversy broke out and 
raged for weeks as to the orthodoxy of one of the candi- 
dates not in the theological but in the political sense. 
I cannot refrain from quoting one delicious sentence 
which gives the pith of the controversy. " The 
amount of Hebrew required by the average divinity 
student of the present day is very small, and profound 
acquaintance with that language is much less im- 
portant than sound political and religious principles." 
This letter was written not by a Shankill Road Orange- 
man, but by a man who had been for a generation 
headmaster of one of the leading public schools in 
Ulster. As a cynic remarked at the time the real 
solution would have been to set up in place of the 
chair of Hebrew a chair of politics with a professor 
appointed by Sir Edward Carson. 


It has been argued, and the charge is repeated by 
Mrs. J. R. Green m her pamphlet Ourselves alone 
in Ulster, that ministers flung themselves into the 
Carson crusade all the more vehemently because it 
held out the promise of filling the empty pews in their 
churches. This, undoubtedly, was true of some, but 
the majority, I am certain, were as zealous as the 
most fiery laymen. In ferocity of language they were 
undoubtedly an easy first, as anyone must admit who 
has the patience to wade through the seas of anti- 
Home Rule oratory which swamped Belfast Unionist 
papers in the years preceding the outbreak of war. 

The determination to make Protestantism synony- 
mous with Unionism has had an effect which those who 
advocated it most fervently did not foresee. If, from 
the point of view of the pulpit, to be a good Protestant 
is to be a good Unionist, then, from the point of view 
of the pew, to be a good Unionist is to be a good 
Protestant, even if one leaves pastors and churches 
severely alone. This theory may not be proclaimed 
in so many words, but that it is extensively practised 
is notorious to everyone in Ulster who is not duped 
by official facts. The late T. M. Kettle, from his own 
experiences as a barrister, used to tell a story which, 
better than any laboured analysis, reveals the strange 
results that follow when political dogmas become 
articles of faith that alone are necessary to salvation. 
In this instance an Orangeman had been called as 
witness to the peaceable disposition of a friend. 
" What sort of a man," asked the counsel, " would 
you say Jamie Williamson is ? " "A quiet, decent 
man." " Is he the sort of a man that would be likely 
to break windows ? " " No man less likely." " Is 
he the sort of man you would expect to find at the 
head of a mob shouting ' To Hell with the Pope ? ' " 
Witness, with great emphasis, " No. Certainly not. 
Jamie was never any ways a religious man." 


That is, of course, an extreme ease, but it shows 
the tendency, and, startUng as it may seem to out- 
siders, the development is both logical and natural. 
The parson on Sunday merely preaches what the 
loyal Covenanter has been practising during the other 
six days of the week ; and a good many of the rank 
and file have the sub-conscious feeling that to have 
donned the khaki of the Ulster Volunteers to fight 
Home Rule absolves them as true defenders of the 
faith from listening to academic lectures on the 
subject. The churches, for all their efforts, could not 
hope to compete in the matter of thrills with the 
week-day oratory of the platform. The drumhead 
services of the Volunteers, with massed bands playing 
hymn tunes and piled drums draped with the Union 
Jack, behind which the clergy took their stand, were, 
it is true, an excellent invention, especially if Sir 
Edward Carson could be induced to grace the pro- 
ceedings with his presence. At the outset, indeed, 
Sir Edward Carson did not bang the Protestant drum 
as loudly as some of his followers expected. Judged 
by the Orange standard, he is, I suspect, rather a 
Laodicean on this question, and lie obviously feared 
the effect on English opinion of the exuberant demon- 
strations of the true-blue Orangemen for whom Lord 
George Gordon is still the ideal hero. But having 
discovered that the Protestant drum must be banged 
in no half-hearted fashion if the temper of Ulster was 
to be kept at fighting pitch, Sir Edward Carson 
speedily mastered his brief, and, before campaign was 
verv old he could trot out the right phrases about 
'' Derry Walls," " the massacres of 1641," and " the 
open Bible " with a fluency and fervour that even a 
Grand Master of the Order might envy. 

Undoubtedly Sir Edward Carson's most brilliant 
tactical stroke — I question if the idea sprang originally 
from his brain — was to term the pledge by which 


Ulster Unionists bound themselves to resist Home 
Rule — the Solemn League and Covenant. Teclmically 
the movement was unsectarian, but the name was a 
trumpet-call to fire Calvinistic blood. While Ulster 
women were adjured to win fame as unending as that 
of Jenny Geddes and Alice Lisle, Ulstermen had a 
new vision of themselves as the persecuted " saints " 
of the moss-hags, hemmed in by the fierce dragoons 
of Claverhouse and the bloodthirsty Highland Host. 
" The holy text of pike and gun " became doubly 
holy with this precedent to justify it. As a 
writer in the Times put it — this was before the 
British Press began to reprove the Kaiser for blas- 
phemy — " Ulster seemed to enter into an offensive 
and defensive alliance with the Deity." For Ulster 
indeed this would still be regarded as a plain state- 
ment of fact, if not actually an understatement. Nor 
is this attitude merely bluff and hypocrisy, as some 
critics assert. There may be leaders of the Coven- 
anters who utter such sentiments tongue in cheek ; 
but the rank and file accept them with deadly serious- 

The seriousness, however, has its comedy side, as 
most serious things fortunately have in Ireland. 
Thus, on the occasion of the signing of the Covenant, 
a prominent Unionist gave notice that, after the 
manner of his Scottish ancestors, he would sign his 
name in blood. The promise was duly fulfilled, but 
even Belfast could not resist a chuckle when it learned 
that the fire-eater arrived at the City Hall attended 
by his family doctor, who extracted a few drops of 
blood with a carefully sterilised hypodermic needle. 
Apparently to this Covenanter readiness to challenge 
the world in arms was a light thing compared with the 
risk of offending obnoxious bacilli. On the same 
occasion Sir Edward Carson himself did not wholly 
please his more old-fashioned adherents by his con- 


cession to another modern tyranny. ll^^^Having first 
signed the Covenant in earnest, he had then to strike 
a melodramatic gesture, pen in hand, and pretend to 
sign the pledge again amid the rattle of serried bat- 
teries of kinematograph machines, and in the blinding 
glare of electric lamps of 39,000 candle power which 
were suddenly switched on to illuminate the scene. 

The Covenant stands now in Ulster for the mainten- 
ance of the Union ; but it is a curious fact that in the 
days when Wolfe Tone was organising the province 
for rebellion it was used as propaganda for an 
Irish Republic. In his Annals of Ulster McSkimin 
records that the United Irishmen of Rasharkin 
appointed two of their members to read and explain 
to the brethren in Antrim and Derry the Prophecies 
of Alexander Peden, the Scottish Covenanter, which 
were described as being " useful to the people in the 
making of our laws." Peden was meant to appeal to 
the Presbyterians, while acceptable fare for the 
Catholics was provided in the predictions of Thomas 
the Rhymer, " an unintelligible worthy of the 
olden time," whose sayings, according to McSkimin, 
" appear to relate chiefly to the Union between 
England and Scotland." 

The members of the Covenanting Church in Ireland, 
" reproachfully known as Mountainmen," to quote 
one of their own manifestos, were strongly suspected 
of favouring the doctrines of the United Irishmen. 
Dr. McNevin, who describes them as " republicans 
by religion and descent," states in his Pieces of Irish 
History that they were " the most active promoters 
of the system." One of their ministers. Rev. William 
Stavely, served as captain of the Drumbracken 
Volunteers, and was commander at a review held 
outside Belfast ; another named Gibson, whose ser- 
vices '' seldom concluded in less than six hours," drew 
hearers in thousands all over Antrim : and if he at 


times "so far forgot himself as to relapse for a moment 
into his holy hatred of Popery," he was, MeSkimin 
declares, " afterwards sure to make amends by 
pointing out the immediate destruction of the British 

The more moderate members of the sect, feeling it 
necessary to clear themselves of complicity in these 
proceedings, issued a proclamation in which they 
expressed " their highest abhorrence and detestation 
of all tumultuous and disorderly meetings . . . where 
anything is said or done that is prejudicial to the peace, 
the safety, or property of any individual or society." 
The resolution, however, had no effect on the itinerant 
preachers, several of whom in the reign of terror that 
followed '98 were arrested and exiled to America. 
The execution of a Covenanter named Daniel English 
made a deeper impression than most of the hangings of 
that dreadful period, and the memory of it still lingers 
in local tradition. English was marched four long 
miles from the guard house at Ballymena to the 
gallows on the bridge of Connor, dressed in his grave- 
clothes and attended by a great company of his co- 
religionists, who, as the procession wended its way 
amongst the hills, joined together in singing the 119th 

A hundred years later the Covenanters or, as they 
now style themselves, the Reformed Presbyterians, 
were the only Protestant denomination in Ulster 
which held aloof from Sir Edward Carson's campaign. 
This attitude was not due, as some might imagine, 
to a belief that the Unionist leaders were going too 
far, but to a firm conviction that they did not go half 
far enough. To these stalwarts the Ulster Unionist 
creed, which seemed to most people the apotheosis 
of all that is stern and unbending in Protestantism, 
was Laodiceanism of the most hopeless kind, and the 
Solemn League and Covenant a weak and futile 


imitation of the real thing. No more extraordinary 
pohtical document was issued in the course of the 
controversy than that in which the Reformed Presby- 
terians justified their refusal to sign the Ulster pledge, 
and' arraigned Sir Edward Carson and his advisers 
as miserable compromisers and trucklers to the 
unclean thing, who could contemplate a political 
system under which Papists, Jews, and Atheists 
would, nominally at least, possess equal rights with 
true believers. This is not an extravagant develop- 
ment of the Covenanting creed but its fundamental 
principle. Until the Covenant — not Sir Edward 
Carson's variation, but the true original — is imposed 
by law on the whole Commonwealth from the King 
to the poorest voter, '' such as are in ecclesiastical 
fellowship with us," a proclamation of the Reformed 
Presbyterian church declares, '' cannot without a 
breach of their testimony hold fellowship with the 
civil government . . . neither can they compose a 
part of the executive government by holding offices 
under the crown, civil or military." Nor do the 
Covenanters hesitate to act up to their principles. I 
remember several elections in North and East Tyrone 
— districts in which the adherents of the creed are 
exceptionally strong — where the Covenanting vote 
would have turned the scale in favour of the Unionist 
candidate, yet, in spite of protests, appeals, and even 
threats, Covenanters resolutely abstained, with the 
result that the seats were captured by the Nationalists. 
It is easy to smile at this as an example of odium 
iheologicum run mad, but it is after all only a logical 
extension of the orthodox Ulster view that if the tail 
cannot wag the dog, neither shall the dog be per- 
mitted to wag the tail. 

Sir Edward Carson, I should imagine, was not 
deeply perturbed by the anger of the Reformed 
Presbyterians. They are at the best a tiny minority 


whose opposition is politically of no significance, 
and to find himself arraigned on the score of his 
moderation must have been for the Unionist leader a 
new and not wholly unwelcome experience. It would 
not be surprising to learn that, as a good Churchman, 
he was more concerned about the effect on his i'ellow 
Episcopalians, and especially on the heads of the 
Church, of a name so ominous as that of the Solemn 
League and Covenant. Sir Edward Carson had 
publicly addressed Dr. Crozier, the Lord Primate of 
the Church of Ireland, as " a brother rebel," but a 
rebel in a shovel hat was not likely to feel altogether 
at ease under a flag first raised to proclaim that 
" Government by archbishops, bishops, their chan- 
cellors, deans and chapters is evil and justly offensive 
and burdensome to the kingdom, a great impediment 
to reformation, and very prejudicial to the civil 

The Church, however, came to heel obediently, 
and swallowed the Covenant without even a 
grimace. At the instance of Sir Edward Carson, 
the Episcopalian bishops of Ulster, headed by the 
Primate, actualty issued a joint pastoral appointing "a 
special form of prayer with suitable Lessons and 
Psalms " for the Sunday preceding the first anniver- 
sary of the signing of Ulster's pledge. There v^^as a 
mutter of protest from one or two indignant Church- 
men that Sir Edward Carson in taking this course 
was acting as if he were already Temporal Head of 
the Church, but the rest of their fellows, clerical and 
lay, bowed their necks to the yoke as if they liked it. 

One effect of Carsonism which has been strangely 
ignored by all the commentators is that it definitely 
established Presbyterianism as the dominant political 
force in Irish Unionism. Men yet on the right side 
of forty can remember when the Ulster Party, though 
elected largely by Presbyterian votes, included very 


few Presbyterians in its ranks. It drew its leaders, 
as it had always done, from militia messes and rent 
agents' offices, where traditions of the Pre-Dis- 
establishment era so far prevailed that the social 
standing required for a Parliamentary representative 
w^as supposed to be the special prerogative of mem- 
bers of the Church of Ireland. Not so many years 
ago a Presbyterian Unionist Voters' Association was 
formed to insist on equal rights to place and power 
with Episcopalians ; and I remember vividly furious 
squabbles over Parliamentary seats between the rival 
creeds, and still more furious diatribes against the 
practical monopoly by Episcopalians of the rewards 
and dignities which Governments confer upon their 
faithful adherents. 

Within the last five or six years all this has been 
changed, and the adoption of the Solemn League and 
Covenant marks definitely the turning of the tide. 
The Church has now to content itself as best it can 
with an affectation of social superiority, and with 
the knowledge that it still flings a spell over the richer 
class of Presbyterians. In theory its members admit 
that Disestablishment gave it a new lease of life, as, 
indeed, is shown by the fact that whereas Presby- 
terianism in Ulster during the last half century has, 
at the best, held its own relativeh^ to other creeds, 
the percentage of Episcopalians in the province has 
increased. In practice, not a few Churchmen instead 
of looking boldly to the future still sigh regretfully 
for the privileges that were their peculiar monopoly 
in the past, and dream dreams, as foolish as those of 
the emigres of the old regime, who flattered themselves 
that some miracle would happen to wipe out the 
effects of the French Revolution. Even yet Church- 
men do not realise that what was attacked in 1869 
was " an endowed party rather than an endowed 
system of religion ; " and they echo the plaintive 


cri du coeur of the late Primate Marcus G. Beresford, 
as if it were an announcement of the end of all things, 
" the people of Ireland used to mean the Protestants ; 
now it means the Papists." This is an artful attempt 
to insist that religious equality in Ireland can be 
maintained only by a denial of majority rule, and its 
specious logic has been for two generations the stock 
argument of those whose policy it is to marshal Irish 
Episcopalians in opposition to democratic ideals. 

In Ulster the reactionaries have met witli a measure 
of success almost beyond their hopes, for the Northern 
bishops and clergy are committed, irretrievably it 
would appear, to the Covenant and all that it implies 
" We have sworn a most solemn and binding oath," 
declared the Rev. T. L. F. Stack in an Orange sermon 
at Omagh in July, 1917, " to resist Home Rule to 
the very death. We mean to keep ' the Covenant of 
God.' Break God's Covenant, court disaster." And 
this light of the Irish Church goes on to declare, in 
words that show how some Ulster loyalists interpret 
their loyalty — " So long as the Covenant stands our 
duty is to reject Home Rule, even if proved the only 
salvation of the Empire." The real significance, 
however, of Mr. Stack's declaration of faith is that 
it is directed not against Nationalists but against the 
Ulster Unionist leaders for their acceptance of the 
Partition proposals. " At the first summons," he 
cries, " the Council yields — abandons four-fifths of 
Ireland, including one-third of Ulster with its 
Covenanters, casting them to the wolves, if only six 

counties may escape The Sinn Feiners are 

honest ; they never concealed their faith, but fought 
and died for it. Ulster surrenders hers without a 

Mr. Stack forgets that the Covenant itself was so 
framed that all Protestants outside the nine northern 
counties were, in his own plii'ase, " cast to the wolves." 


And quite naturally Southern Episcopalians, though 
they were warned by their leaders to make no protest, 
did not, and do not, like it. In some of them this de- 
sertion aroused an anger akin to that of Mr. Stack ; in 
others it has awakened, as might have been foreseen, a 
desire to arrange a compromise on their own account. 
This is strictly in accordance with historical precedent. 
The cry of Home Rule came first from Protestant not 
Catholic lips, and the movement which, north of the 
Boyne, is held to be the creation of the Vatican equally 
with the Devil, received its driving force originally 
from Churchmen who, having fought and lost the battle 
of the Establishment, decided it would be better in 
future to trust to the goodwill of their fellow-country- 
men of all creeds than to the pledges of English states- 
men. To-day similar causes are producing similar 
results. Ulster made its bargain with a frank dis- 
regard of Southern Unionist claims, and, having used 
"" the persecuted brethren of the South and West " 
as its best propagandist asset, left them when the 
real crisis came to shift for themselves. The Carson 
lifeboat was designed to accommodate only Ulster 
Unionists ; others who sought to scramble aboard 
were promptly beaten off by the crew with oars and 
belaying pins. Better some should be saved than all 
should sink was the cry, an argument which might 
be logical, but was cold comfort to those who were so 
callously abandoned to their fate. 

The majority of Southern Protestants never 
disguised the fact that they regarded the Covenant 
simply as a device to wreck Home Rule, and 
had not bargained for Ulster using it to achieve 
what they considered, pardonably enough, to be 
purely selfish ends. It is notorious that some 
Churchmen, even inside the six counties, view 
with none too favourable an eye the creation of a 
Protestant enclave in which the dominant influence 


is bound to be Presbyterian. Such a development 
threatens to prove too complete a reversal of historic 
traditions ; and even were it possible to capture the 
excluded counties, the triumph would not satisfy the 
best minds amongst the Episcopalians. These have 
long since abandoned the futile dream of a supremacy 
buttressed on alien bayonets — nature is as likely to 
bring back the mastodon as to restore the Establish- 
ment — but they do sincerely believe that the mission 
of their Church is national and not merely provincial. 

In any case the most bigoted Southern Churchman 
is at last aware that, whatever happens in Ulster, he 
will have to live in future in an Ireland governed by 
majority rule ; and the question for him is whether 
he will chose to be an expatriate or a patriot. He 
may, if he likes, hold aloof, brooding sullenly over 
the vanished glories of his caste, but if he elects to 
come in with his countrymen lie must come relying 
on his merits as an individual, not on his fancied 
prestige as a member of the " garrison." Prominent 
Churchmen like Bishop Gregg of Ossory and Bishop 
Plunket of Tuam have warned their co-religionists 
more than once in this sense ; and one Ulster prelate 
at least does not hail the prospect of civil war with 
the " frolic welcome " of some of his brethren. Dr. 
Day of Clogher, speaking at Clones, in October, 1917, 
said a Convention settlement might not give them in 
Ulster " a system such as they desired, but, in the 
words of the preface to the Prayer Book, ' that 
which is imperfect with peace is often better than 
what is otherwise more excellent without it.' " 

How far these views represent the opinion of the 
mass of Episcopalians remains for the present 
a mystery. The communion includes the most 
bitter section of ascendancy partisans, extremists 
who are aptly described in a characteristic Ulster 
phrase, " If you cut them they'd bleed Orange." 


Such people are not likely to agree easily to a com- 
promise, however reasonable, and may be trusted to 
do their best to make a political arrangement wear 
the appearance of treason to a religious creed. But it 
is obvious that if Ulster stands by the Covenant 
Protestants outside Ulster will be forced in self- 
defence to make terms for themselves. Apparently 
the Covenanters do not see that by compelling 
Southern Unionists to adopt this course they deprive 
themselves of their main argument — nowadays in 
fact their only argument — that Home Rule means 
intolerable religious tyranny. If the feeble and 
scattered minorities of the South and West can obtain 
conditions that will satisfy their sectarian scruples, 
the shuddering horror with which the compact Ulster 
hloc professes to regard self-government, as sounding 
the death-knell of Irish Protestantism, is not so much 
impressive as absurd. As a matter of fact in the 
eyes of the vast majority of Irish Protestants outside 
the new Ulster enclave, and of many inside it, Sir 
Edward Carson is a greater menace to the welfare of 
Protestantism than either Mr. De Valera or Mr. 
Dillon. The Irish Times, which claims to speak for 
the Southern Unionists, opposes Partition specifically 
on the ground of its blighting influence on Irish 
Protestantism. '' The Church of Ireland," it declares, 
" will be the first to suffer ; soon we may have two 
shabby provincial churches instead of one national 
Church. In a hardly less mischievous degree Southern 
Presbyterians and Methodists will find themselves 
separated from their fellow- churchmen within the 
six counties." It is not the least fantastic of Irish 
paradoxes that Popery and its machinations should 
haunt the waking dreams of men who never encounter 
a Catholic from year's end to year's end, while 
Protestants, who live in districts where they are out- 
numbered a hundred to one, sleep peacefully o' nights 


undisturbed by visions of Vatican plots to destroy 
their faith. 

It is undeniable that the churches have been 
a great asset to the Ulster politician ; whether 
politics have helped the cause of religion, which the 
churches, nominally at least, exist to advance, is a 
much more debatable question. Presbyterians have 
no doubt on the subject when the politics preached 
are not those which it is now the fashion to advocate 
in Ulster pulpits. Dr. Killen, in his continuation of 
Reid's History, attributes what he calls " the dark 
night in the history of Irish Presbyterianism " to the 
action of clergymen who in the last decades of the 
eighteenth century " compromised their religious 
consistency by merging the pastor in the politician." 
With horror he relates that "in 1783 the results of 
political meetings held in places of Presbyterian 
worship on the Lord's Day were regularly published 
in the newspapers by the parties themselves." What 
was at that time, according to him, a practice 
" condemned by the evangelical ministers," became 
in the days of Sir Edward Carson's crusade as much 
a matter of course as the taking-up of a collection. 

If a hundred odd years ago " the military ardour 
displayed by Presbyterian ministers only proved they 
were not sufficiently devoted to their profession," 
and " the zeal with which they engaged in the political 
struggles of the period betrayed a sad want of spiri- 
tuality of disposition," I wonder what the official 
historian of Irish Presbyterianism will say fifty years 
hence of the part played by his Church in the Home 
Rule struggle. In the days of the first Volunteer 
movement many clergymen, if Killen is to be believed, 
held aloof. When Sir Edward Carson summoned his 
Volunteers, Moderators and ex-Moderators to a man 
hastened to give them their blessing, and ministers 
who stood aside, even if they did not actively oppose 


were pilloried not merely as slackers but as traitors. 
No sermons had savour except they smacked of 
gunpowder, and churches were transformed from 
places of prayer into recruiting- stations for Ulster's 

The official Unionist answer to this is that Home 
Rule is not a political but a religious question. '' A 
Home Rule Government," in the words of one parson, 
" means liquor legislation. Sabbath profanation after 
Mass ; it means education under the management of 
the ' religious orders '; it means no marriage ceremony 
legal but those celebrated by priests ; it means public 
processions with an ' elevated Host,' in the presence 
of which wc would have to uncover or be bludgeoned." 
The eighteenth century Volunteers also professed to 
believe that they were fighting for more than mere 
political advantages, and insisted that their demand 
for freedom of conscience and equality of treatment 
for members of all creeds made them not rebels but 
true crusaders. Yet, according to the official view of 
the Church, as expounded by Killen, " their history 
is an admonition to all ministers of Christ to beware 
of shipwreck on the barren rock of political agitation." 
So strangely constituted is human nature that this 
verdict is endorsed to-day by men who have for years 
past been preaching the doctrijie of armed resistance 
to Crown and Parliament as if it summed up both 
the Law and the Prophets. 

Primate Alexander, a Unionist whose Unionism 
did not blind his insight or destroy his sense of 
humour, was fond of telling a story with a moral of 
the universal identification of politics with religion 
north of the Boyne. Shortly after he was appointed 
to the See of Derry he met in the street a Catholic 
shopkeeper with whom he w^as acquainted. " I wish 
you every blessing, my lord," said the Catholic. " I 
like to think vou will follow auld Ponsonbv, whom 


you knew so well. He was twenty years here, and a 
better Christian we never saw. Sure no man ever 
heard a word of religion out of him." " This seems 
a strange encomium on a bishop," Alexander remarks, 
'' but religion was here used in the secular sense — 
aggressive and alas ! political ! " Had " auld 
Ponsonby's " rule been the rule of all prelates and 
presbyters, there might have been as much politics 
in Ireland to-day, but, assuredly, there would have 
been more real religion. 

Unfortunately, the fundamental principle of Ulster 
Protestantism is that those who hold its creed are a 
" Chosen People." As one of their popular songs puts 

" We are the true-born sons of Levi, 

None on earth can with us compare ; 
We are the root and branch of Jesse, 

The bright and glorious morning star." 

As with the Israelites of old, the theory leads to 
strange conclusions. I have heard a clergyman in 
an address designed to show that at every crisis God 
had miraculously intervened to save Ulster Unionists, 
quote as a proof of his argument the fact that when 
the whole world believed Home Rule to be inevitable 
Germany marched her forces across the Belgian 
border. To drench continents in blood in order to 
save the political prestige of a fraction of the popula- 
tion of an inconsiderable province does not strike the 
ordinary mind as a miracle of grace, but it is an 
excellent example of how the theory of a " Chosen 
People " works out in practice. 

The Belfast City Council some years ago banned 
Nietzsche from the shelves of its public libraries on 
the score of the immorality of his doctrines. Yet 
Nietzsche looked to the coming of the Superman only 
^s a hope of the distant future ; whereas, if Ulster 


clergymen are right, the Superman has already 
arrived in the person of the Ulster Protestant. It is 
true they trick out the "blonde beast" in the steeple 
hat and bands of the Puritan, but this Calvinistic 
gloss is merely surface polish. Nietzsche proposed to 
demolish the Christian creed in order to build a new 
philosophy of life on its ruins ; with greater art, if 
with less honesty, a good many leaders of religion 
in Ulster keep the form of the creed, and pervert its 
spirit by making its central doctrine not the humility 
of its Founder but the spiritual arrogance of the 

It was of an Ulster bishop the lines were written : — 

" He knew no mercy, was not meek — 

' The meek are blessed,' saith the Lord — 
If one should smite him on the cheek. 
He'd turn — but turn to draw his sword ; " 

and the verse sums up admirably not only the spirit of 
the episcopal bench, but of Ulster Protestantism in 
general. " Our loyalty," declared another prelate, 
" is inextricably entwined with our religious faith." 
But the union is that of the ivy and the forest tree, 
and the more aggressively loyalty of this kind 
flourishes north of the Boyne the more rapid is the 
decadence of religious faith in the true meaning of the 



III. — Orangeism. 


The Orangeman does not lack honour in his own 
country, nevertheless it is one of the grievances of 
Ulster Unionism that the outside world should persist 
in making his aggressive figure the sign and symbol 
of all it professes to represent. Its leaders prefer to 
regard him as an irregular from whose services it is 
legitimate to profit, but whose acts they are free to 
repudiate, much as the Porte in the old days used to 
disclaim responsibility for the excesses of the Bashi 
Bazouks. Wilkes declared himself no Wilkite ; in a 
different sense the Orange leaders are in the main 
not Orangemen. They hold aloof, not because they 
dislike the principles, but simply and solely on grounds 
of expediency. Orangeism in the past has been 
perhaps even more a trial to its friends than a terror 
to its enemies ; and though its adherents, from the 
Unionist point of view, are ideal people with whom 
to go tiger-hunting, the trouble is that they have no 
other tactics than those of the tiger-hunt. They 
are to an Ulster leader forces without whose aid 
victory is impossible, but whose methods cannot 
always be reconciled with the laws of honourable 

To those who saw the situation from the inside, 
Sir Edward Carson's handling of the Orange Institu- 
tion during the Home Rule struggle will always rank 


amongst his most remarkable achievements. He 
managed to accomphsh what most people regarded 
as the sheer impossibihty of securing for his move- 
ment the full driving force of Orangeism without 
intruding the thing itself too nakedly on his English 
audiences, to whom the difference J)etween Orangemen 
and Sinn Feiners is little more than that between 
Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And while he avoided 
ruffling unduly British sensibilities, Sir Edward 
Carson succeeded at the same time in keeping his own 
extremists obedient to a discipline that if imposed by 
any other leader would have provoked a furious 

His champions may dispute the view that the 
Orangeman is wedded to mediaeval ideas, but they 
cannot deny that whether his ideas are mediaeval or 
not he takes a mediaeval delight in their concrete 
expression. To make broad his phylacteries is with 
him something more than a formal convention ; and 
the inward and spiritual grace he presumably derives 
from his creed would, in his opinion, lose half its 
value were it to be deprived of its outward and visible 
signs. But it was precisely these signs that troubled 
Sir Edward Carson. In the Orange spirit he recognised 
his best asset ; the forms in which that spirit delighted 
to manifest itself were, he saw, more likely to 
antagonise than to convert opinion in Great Britain. 
Therefore, while he loaded the Brethren — as they 
love to call themselves — with compliments, he took 
care that in his processions and displays they should 
not appear too often in their favourite colours. Thus 
in the early days of the campaign the Lodges marched 
as Unionist Clubs, without either bands or banners ; 
at a later stage they were transformed into companies 
and regiments of the Ulster Volunteer Force. To the 
outsider this may seem a small thing ; to the true- 
blue Orangeman it was as distasteful as were to 


Laertes the " maimed rites " of Ophelia's funeral. 
He discarded his regalia as unwillingly as an old- 
fashioned soldier doffed his red coat for khaki ; and 
found Sir Edward Carson's battle hymn, " O God, 
our help in ages past," a poor substitute for the 
vehement rhythms of 

" Sleeter slaughter, Holy Water, 
Scatter the Papishes every one ; 
When we go to battle. 
The cannons will rattle. 
The Protestant boys will carry the drum." 

Politically the Unionist leader may have been 
justified, but should his policy prevail the new 
Ulster will be a much duller place to live in than the 
old. In the past Unionist politics have supplied not 
only the thrills but most of the colour of life. The 
Calvinism of the North has banished aestheticism 
from religion, and it is Orangeism that largely fills 
the gap, strengthening its hold on the imagination 
by the appeal it makes to instincts that lie deep 
down in human nature. It may seem a sour and 
unlovely creed, but no one who has studied it at close 
quarters is likely to underrate the influence its 
pageantry and symbolism exercise on the minds of its 
adherents. Whatever we think of Orangeism politi- 
cally, let it at least be counted to it for righteousness 
that it brings a gleam of brightness into dull lives. In 
the early days of July, when arches composed of ropes 
of coloured paper or festoons of orange lilies and 
sweet-william — flow^ers sacred to the victor of the 
Boyne — are strung from chimney-pot to chimney-pot 
in all the back streets of the Unionist quarters, 
Belfast ought to be the happiest of hunting grounds 
for Futurist painters. A stern ritual dominates the 
construction of Orange arches, and novelties in 
design would be regarded as blasphemy. You always 


have as a centrepiece a glaring oleograph of King 
William III., flanked as a rule by portraits of the 
King and Disraeli. Of late years the tendency is to 
substitute for these Avorthies Sir Edward Carson and 
Colonel Craig, and Lord Birkenhead also gets a show, 
not as Lord Chancellor of England, but in the more 
romantic character of '' Galloper " Smith. In some 
streets portentous w^ooden erections are slung to 
symbolise the Gates of Derry, and there are the usual 
devices of the sword laid across an open Bible, Jacob's 
ladders, and five-pointed stars, with a strange medley 
of mottoes, from " Civil and religious liberty " to '' No 
Popery " and " To Hell with John Dillon." 

These arches are thickest in the streets that abut 
on Nationalist territory. There the orange lilies 
are most lavishly spread, the inscriptions are more 
provocative, and battered effigies of Mr. Dillon and 
Mr. Devlin dangle in mid air. The din of fifes and 
drums all night long makes sleep impossible, and 
youthful braves, like knights before their investiture, 
keep watch and ward beside bonfires in expectation 
of a raid. For some years back the Nationalists 
have held themselves well in hand, but there was a 
time when skirmishes in this debatable land were the 
rule, not the exception, during the early days of July, 
and many a noble structure, portraits, devices, and all, 
has in the small hours come toppling to the ground in 
ruins by the primitive agency of an iron bar tied to a 
rope. There is a story that on the night before Om- 
durman, when Kitchener's troops lay on their arms 
behind their frail zereba of thorn bushes, momen- 
tarily awaiting a Dervish onslaught, an English 
soldier who complained of the nerve-racking suspense 
was silenced by a Belfast comrade with the enig- 
matical remark, " Man, its naething like waitin' for 
the Fenians to pull down the arches on the night 
before the Twelfth." 


Every Orange Lodge is then unfurling new banners, 
as large as the mainsail of a fishing boat, tasselled 
with purple and gold, and with painted centrepieces 
blazing with all the colours of the rainbow. The 
favourite composition shows William the Third, as 
large as life, crossing the Boyne on a ramping white 
charger, from whose uplifted forefoot the water drips 
artistically. Next to this in popularity is the siege 
of Derry, with the gaunt spectres of the garrison in 
the foreground staring down the river at the relief 
ships charging the Culmore boom.' There is also a 
delightful study of a plump Queen Victoria presenting 
a Bible to a woolly-headed negro clad simply in a 
loin cloth, the whole bearing the legend, " The Secret 
of England's Greatness." What the negro has to do 
with Orangeism I have never been able to discover, 
but " The Secret," as it is familiarly known, turns up 
year after year, and never loses its charm. The 
portraits are as strangely assorted as the historical 
pictures. I imagine the Duke of Wellington would 
be as surprised as the late Lord Roberts to find him- 
self figuring as an Orange hero ; and Disraeli — a 
hot favourite for some reason with the " brethren " — 
never seems quite happy in the company of 
Johnston of Ballykilbeg, whose title to fame is that 
he served a term in jail for defying an Act of Parlia- 
ment prohibiting party processions. 

In the matter of barbaric display there is little to 
choose between the banners and the bands. Of late 
years, it is true, the Ulster Volunteers have toned 
them down with a note of sober khaki ; but there 
are still enthusiasts who appear in Highland costume, 
in the busby and frogged jacket of the Victorian 
hussar, in " smasher " hats dyed a raw purple, 
in kepis and red shirts that date back to the American 
Civil War. As only a short interval divides one band 
from another, and each persists in hammering out a 


different tune, the din of bagpipes, brass, and wind 
instruments is something to remember. And, to 
crown all, there are the " Lambeg " drummers, who 
are to the ordinary Orangeman what the Ghazi 
fanatic is to the tribesman of the Indian border. 
They operate in sections of three — two drums to 
a single fife — but drumsticks are abandoned for long 
flexible canes, which rattle on the sheepskins with a 
noise as ear-splitting as machine-gun fire. The point 
of the game is that each man should do his best to 
drown his neighbour's efforts, and so furiously do 
they labour that the blood from their frayed wrists 
spreads in ghastly stains over the drumheads. I 
have known a folk -lor ist who used to draw elaborate 
parallels with the ju-ju rites of West African negroes ; 
but what may be natural enough amongst tropical 
mango swamps is a weird survival when one stumbles 
upon it in the red brick streets of an aggressively 
modern city. 

I fear that what I have written may leave the 
impression that the Orangeman is a dark-browed 
fanatic, who cannot be fitted into the twentieth 
century. That is what some of those who control his 
political destinies would like him to be ; fortunately, 
for the honour of human nature, cheerfulness, as with 
Dr. Johnson's friend, keeps breaking in. He has 
his dark hours, when, if he is scratched or even 
rubbed the wrong w^ay, one gets a good imitation of 
Peter Poundtext or Praise-the-Lord-Barebones. These 
fits are confined in the main to the great feasts of his 
Order — the anniversaries of the Boyne and the Siege 
of Derry — in the intervals he is quite harmless and 
mixes on friendly terms with those whom in theory he 
longs to serve as the Israelites served the Amalekites. 

Nowadays, indeed, he makes a great parade of dis- 
claiming anything in the nature of ascendancy, and 
no longer demands. 


'* The crown of the causeway in market or street, 
And the rascally Papishes under my feet." 
" Civil and Religious Liberty " is his new watch- 
word, but he does not always resist the temptation 
to apply it after the fashion of Cromwell's Ironsides, 
who were all for liberty of religion, and interpreted 
liberty to mean that there must be no toleration of 
Romish superstitions. Orangemen — and it counts to 
their credit — can make a joke against themselves ; 
and it was one of the Brethren who told me the 
sorrowful tale of the Belfast woman whose son 
had been persecuted for his religion. The youth, it 
seemed, in a fit of fiery indignation, smashed the 
window of a shop where crucifixes and Catholic 
emblems were displayed, and was sent to jail for a 
month. " If that," declared his proud and tearful 
parent, '' isn't sufferin' for his religion, I'd like to 
know what is." The story may be a parable, but it 
explains many things. 

It is simple enough to describe the surface appear- 
ance of Orangeism, but by no means so easy to 
analyse the qualities that give the faith its hold over 
the minds of its adherents and make it so formidable a 
political force. No principle which has powerfully 
influenced the minds of a community has found fewer 
reputable defenders. Even those who have used it 
for their own ends, and without its support would 
have failed to maintain their position for an hour, 
are eager to wash their hands of responsibility for its 
actions. If it is to some of its opponents, in the words 
of T. M. Kettle, " a settled hallucination with an 
annual brainstorm," its friends, or those whom it 
might reasonably expect to be its friends, have damned 
it with even stronger censure. Archbishop Whately, 
though he held Protestant Ascendancy to be the 
linch-pin of the Constitution, nevertheless declared : 
'' The very name of Orangeman is a sign chosen on 


purpose to keep up the memory of a civil war, which 
every friend of humanity would wish to bury in 
oblivion. It is doing what among the heathen was 
reckoned an accursed thing — keeping a trophy in 
repair." Curran put it even more succinctly when 
he described the Orange speeches of his day as 
resembling " the unrolling of a mummy— all old 
bones and rotten rags." 

Unfortunately these old bones and rotten rags are 
still venerated as sacfed relics, and the difficulty is 
to induce believers to view them in the light 
of reason, not with the unquestioning eye of faith. 
That will not be accomplished, I am convinced, by 
assuming, as not a few critics of Orangeism assume, 
that its adherents know in their hearts the idols they 
worship are rags and bones, and of set purpose blind 
themselves to the truth. Whatever may be the case 
with individuals, men in masses never deliberately say, 
" Evil, be thou my good ; " and human nature is so 
constituted that it can produce moral reasons to 
justify even the worst creeds. Orangemen may be 
fanatics ; to dismiss them as conscious hypocrites 
serves, by strengthening their conviction that they are 
persecuted for righteousness' sake, to confirm them 
more strongly in their beliefs, and renders impossible 
anything like reasonable discussion of the fundamental 
issues that divide great masses of Irishmen. 

It is often forgotten that Orangeism is less a clearly 
defined programme of political principles than the 
reflection of a state of mind which owes its origin to 
events whose true significance is largely hidden from 
those who build their creed upon them. It may be 
labour lost to attempt to get back to first causes, for 
the Orangeman, much as he loathes Catholic theology, 
acts firmly on the principle that in what are to him 
matters of faith there is no appeal to the logic of 
reason. Yet I believe that such efforts, even if they 


are unsuccessful, hold out at least the promise of better 
results than a continuance of the acrid and futile 
controversies that have been the rule in the past. 
It may be tempting to meet the taunt of " Papist 
persecutor " with the cry of " Orange thug," but hard 
words of this kind, far from breaking bones, merely 
increase the self-esteem of those against whom they 
are hurled. Burke, as far back as 1792, saw much 
more clearly than some twentieth century politicians 
the real difficulty. In his letter to Sir Hercules 
Langrishe he remarked of the Irish Protestants — 
" If they could be once got to think that the Catholics 
were human creatures, and that they lost no job by 
thinking them such, I am convinced that they would 
soon, very soon indeed, be led to show some regard 
for their country." 

If Burke's words were true one hundred and 
twenty-seven years ago, they are still more 
poignantly true to-day ; and their appeal should be 
taken to heart, not by one Irish party, but by all. 
While we rightly resent the English imputation of 
the Irishman's " double dose of original sin," it is in 
our own family jars just this habit of attributing 
opposition to original sin instead of to historical causes 
that complicates so woefully the task of those whose 
aim is unity, not division. When we begin to realise 
that far from any side having a monopoly of either 
angels or devils the majority of all parties are fallible, 
well-meaning men, we shall have advanced a long 
way towards a solution of our difficulties. This counsel 
— unfortunately under existing circumstances a coun- 
sel of perfection — ought specially to be borne in mind 
in any consideration of Orangeism as a force in Irish 
affairs. The Orangeman is not more deeply convinced 
of the righteousness of his own motives than he is of 
the innate malignity of those who oppose him. He 
will admit that there are two sides to a question, but 


only in the sense that one is right and the other 
wrong, and those who defend what he holds the wrong 
side do so, he believes, because they deliberately prefer 
darkness to light. 

" An Orangeman who was asked how long his 
Order had been in existence answered off-hand that 
Orangeisni could be traced back to the Garden of 
Eden. This was a thoroughly accurate statement. 
He simply meant to convey that all the essentials 
of a perfect nature and of an exalted religion were 
to be found associated in the primal day of our race." 
This quotation is not, I hasten to say, a bad joke or 
an invention of the enemy. On the contrary, it is an 
extract from the introduction to Mr. E. M. Sibbett's 
Orangeism in Ireland and throughout the Empire, the 
first attempt to give a detailed account of the rise and 
progress of the Order ; and a work which, apart from 
the political creed it seeks to expound, is a mine of 
valuable information about a side of Irish history 
curiously neglected by the ofiPicial historians. The 
author proceeds to develop his "Garden of Eden" 
theory along lines w^hich to non-Orangemen are simply 
astounding. The sin that brought about Adam's fall 
having been purged on Calvary, so runs the argument, 
" our relationship to the Father of our spirits was 
renewed, and while we maintained that relationship 
by faith and obedience no one could take away our 
inheritance." " That," Mr. Sibbett continues, " was 
Protestantism, that was Orangeism. Popery, how- 
ever, obscured the truth, and while affecting to lead 
man right plunged him into a moral quagmire, into 
a wilderness of error and superstition." Against 
Popery's " usurpation of the office of our Redeemer," 
Orangeism, which is " organised Protestantism," is 
the only effective weapon ; and so we reach the 
conclusion that the triumph of Bethlehem depends 
in the long run on Belfast. 


Mr. Sibbett's book, I ought to explain, was pub- 
lished not in the days when Protestant Ascendancy 
was assumed to be an axiom of Government, but 
almost simultaneously with Great Britain's declara- 
tion of war against Germany. That England should 
take up arms against another Protestant Empire for 
the sake of Catholic Belgium would seem a flat denial 
of the cherished principles of Orangeism, which, if 
carried to their logical conclusion, mean not so much 
making the world safe for democracy as making it 
unsafe for the Vatican. Fortunately Orangemen's 
hearts are a long way sounder than their heads ; and 
just as they manage to turn a blind eye to the fact 
that WiUiam of Orange instead of being at daggers 
drawn with the Pope was leagued with him in 
opposition to Louis XIV., so the Kaiser, who in the 
spring of 1914 was hailed in Belfast as a potential 
deliverer, had been transformed before the summer 
ran its course into the arch enemy not only of England 
but of the Protestant cause. I am certain Mr. Sibbett 
was as strong for the " knock-out blow " as Mr. 
Lloyd George or even Mr. Horatio Bottomley, and 
is quite prepared to demonstrate that the overthrow 
of Protestant Germany is essential to the ultimate 
defeat of the Papacy. The logic of Orange philosophy 
bears at times a bewildering resemblance to the logic 
of the Mad Hatter's dinner party, but, unfortunately 
its fruits are a matter for tears rather than laughter. 

Orangeism in its modern form came into being with 
the collapse of the Penal Laws, and represented an 
attempt by the poorer class of Protestants to achieve 
by mob violence what their ancestors had accom- 
plished by the more decorous method of legislative 
enactment. The Penal Code, as Lecky points out, 
" was inspired less by fanaticism than by rapacity, 
and was directed less against the Catholic religion 
than against the property and industry of its pro- 


fessors." By the time the eighteenth century had 
entered upon its last quarter the Penal Laws had 
done the work they were designed to do. The aris- 
tocracy, in addition to possessing the supreme control 
of political affairs, enjoyed a virtual monopoly of 
Irish land. So strongly had its members consolidated 
their position that they no longer felt it necessary 
to rely on the Protestant democracy, to whom, in 
more troubled times, they looked for support. On 
many estates Catholic tenants were preferred to 
Protestants because they were willing to pay heavier 
rack-rents, and raised no awkward questions about 
rights or privileges. The extension of the suffrage to 
Catholics in 1793 gave a great impetus to this move- 
ment. Hitherto, possession of the vote had been a 
strong recommendation in favour of Protestant 
tenants in the eyes of landlords who knew to a pound 
the cash value of political influence in the Irish Parlia- 
ment. When Catholics were placed on a voting 
equality with Protestants this recommendation dis- 
appeared, and in the competition for holdings, 
especially in Ulster, religion was no longer a bar. 

It is a good example of the manner in which 
sectarian bias prevents clear thinking in Ireland that 
Protestant farmers, instead of demanding security of 
tenure from their landlords, should have turned the 
vials of their wrath on Catholics for taking advantage 
of an opportunity to bid for holdings on equal terms 
with members of the dominant faith. So far as I am 
aware, no landlord suffered for giving preference to 
Catholics, but Catholics who accepted it were declared 
to be outside the pale. The Protestant crusade took 
the form of a holy war, which, in Lecky's words, was 
unparalleled in Irish history " since the days of 
Cromwell." This jehad followed the formation of the 
first Orange lodges in Armagh, and though the 
modern defenders of the Order protest its innocence, 


the whole weight of contemporary evidence refutes 
their argument. The depredators who sought to better 
Cromwell's practice by a ruthless expulsion of their 
Catholic neighbours gloried in the name of Orangemen. 
Lord Camden, the Viceroy, in a private despatch 
stated that the Orangemen had established " a 
system of terror " in Armagh ; and Mr. Verner, one 
of the leading lights of the Protestant party, admitted 
in Parliament the outrages charged against his 
brethren, but excused them on the ground of pro- 
vocation. Verner's line of argument has been im- 
proved on by later Orange apologists, who, with 
even greater hardihood than he possessed, strive to 
show that while the Orangemen had nothing to do 
with the business, razzias more ruthless than those 
organised by the Germans in Belgium and northern 
France were really trifles which only sentimentalists 
could take seriously. 

As usual in Ulster religious fanaticism was so 
directed as to subserve economic ends. Latocnaye, a 
French emigre^ who visited the disturbed areas while 
the campaign of expulsion was in full swing, discovered 
that proclamations, containing what was supposed 
to be a prophecy of St. Columba, were assiduously 
circulated in Catholic districts. The document stated 
that " a time will come when war and famine will 
destroy in this part of the country all those who have 
not embraced the new errors ; " but consolingly 
added, " the massacre shall not extend beyond the 
Shannon, where the faithful shall prosper." In 
addition to working on superstitious feelings, material 
interests were appealed to, and Connacht was repre- 
sented as a land of golden hopes where emigrants 
would live in plenty for next to nothing, and where 
work at good wages was available for all. If these 
milder measures did not succeed, the " strong hand " 
came into play. Houses, in the phrase of the day, 


were " papered " or " noticed," the form of the 
summons runnmg, according to Latocnaye, as 

follows : — " Peter James , you have 

time to sell your things and go to Connacht 

or you will go to Hell." The threat was more than 
empty words. A precise estimate of the number of 
people expelled from their holdings by this 
tyranny is not attainable. In a speech in Parlia- 
ment Curran declared that in Armagh alone 1,400 
families, or about 7,000 people, had been driven from 
their homes, but Lecky is inclined to reduce these 
figures by half. Lord Altamont, a great Mayo land- 
lord, informed the Castle that 4,000 of these fugitives 
had taken refuge in Mayo, and '' a number that I 
cannot take on me to compute in other parts of the 
province of Connacht." Others settled in the Mid- 
lands and South, where, in the words of the Lord 
Lieutenant, '' they related their sufferings, and, I 
fear, have excited a spirit of revenge among their 
Catholic brethren." 

As a matter of fact Catholic indignation was 
stronger against the authorities, who tolerated if they 
did not connive at this outrage, than it was against 
the actual perpetrators. "As to the Orangemen," 
wrote a Dungannon magistrate whose report Lecky 
quotes, " we have rather a difficult card to play ; they 
must not be entu'cly discountenanced — on the con- 
trary we must in a certain degree uphold them, for 
with all their licentiousness, on them must we rely 
for the preservation of our lives and liberties should 
critical times occur." A Tyrone landlord describing 
how hatred of the Catholics had increased in his 
district adds the illuminating sentence : " This change 
has been wrought within the year — a change fraught 
with the best consequences to our King and Con- 
stitution." In Grattan's phrase, " the Protestant 
mob naturally conceived itself to be part of the 


Senate." It had every encouragement to take this 
view, for whereas General Craddock, when the reign 
of terror in Armagh was at its worst, could find no 
use to which his troops might be put, Carhampton 
at the same time was stamping out Catholic disorders 
in Connacht by the simple process of rounding up 
the inhabitants of disaffected areas and sending them, 
to quote Lecky again, " without sentence, without 
trial, without even a colour of legality .... to serve 
in the King's fleet." The Viceroy's comments on 
Carhampton' s kidnapping expedition contrast strongly 
with his attitude towards the Armagh outrages. " I 
am afraid," he wrote, " some of the magistrates have 
been incautious enough not to carry on the measure 
so secretly as to have escaped the notice of the 
public. ... It has, certainly, however, done much 
to quiet the country, and I shall, of course take care 
to protect these gentlemen as far as I am enabled 
with propriety to do so." 

Baneful as were the results of these administrative 
methods on Catholics, they exercised in the long run 
an even more detrimental effect on Orangemen by 
convincing them that their campaign of terrorism and 
outrage was in accordance with the secret wishes of 
the Government. They had always been accustomed 
to regard themselves as a class apart ; and the failure 
of the Executive either to impose responsibility or 
exercise restraint created a tradition from the evil 
effects of which Orangeism has never been able to 
free itself. Its adherents to-day have no desire to 
burn down the houses of their neighbours or drive 
Catholics to Hell or Connacht ; but they still cherish 
the belief that it rests with them alone to say whether 
these things should or should not be done. And if 
they decide to take action, a Government which 
hampers their efforts is not merely guilty of an error 
of judgment, but is wilfully sinning against the light. 



The mentality of Orangeism in the twentieth century 
is well revealed in this utterance of an Orange member 
of Parliament, Captain Charles Craig, on the question 
of reprisals against Germany. After explaining that 
" in times of peace ideas of Christianity are all right, 
but now they are out of date," he went on to tell the 
House of Commons how the thing could be managed 
by adopting Ulster methods. '' If the person," he 
said, '' who objects to reprisals and who objects to 
killing a German, although they have been killing 
Englishmen in Germany, doubts whether it is right 
or not to do it, let him think that he is the agent of a 
Higher Power. Let him think that he is the agent of 
Someone up above, and that will get out of the 

There still circulates amongst the Lodges a paper 
drawn up by the Rev. Dr. Drew, of Belfast, a notable 
pillar of the Order, which bears the title '' Twenty 
Reasons for being an Orangeman." From the declara- 
tion of belief I extract two clauses which contain the 
pith of the Orange gospel, and incidentally demon- 
strate the accuracy of Mr. Dooley's definition that " a 
fanatic is a man who acts as he thinks God would 
act, if God knew the whole facts of the case." These 
are typical of Dr. Drew's reasons : — 

" Because it cannot be otherwise, but that under 
the downward progress of British legislation God will 
be made angry, and the nation imperilled, Protestant 
unity and testimony are therefore required to depre- 
cate God's indignation, and to ' bide the time ' of 
needful resistance. 

" Because all truckling to Popery has, in every 
instance, been attended with renewed clamour for 
further concessions in violation of pledges given by 
Roman Catholics." 

The theory of insatiable Catholics extorting privi- 
lege after privilege at the expense of harassed Pro- 


testants colours all Orange thought. Towards the 
end of the eighteenth century, when the claim was 
made that religion should no longer be a disqualifica- 
tion for the exercise of the franchise, the Dublin 
Corporation, then the central fortress of Irish Toryism, 
issued a protest declaring that " though the liberal 
and enlightened mind of the Protestant receives 
pleasure at seeing the Catholic exercise his religion 
with freedom, enjoy his property in security, and 
possess the highest degree of personal liberty, yet 
experience has taught us that, without the ruin of the 
Protestant establishment, the Catholic cannot be 
allowed the smallest influence in the State." A genera- 
tion later the demand to return Catholics to Parlia- 
ment was met with the argument that as they already 
possessed votes they could in fairness ask nothing 
more. Later still, the abolition of the Establishment 
and the settlement of the land question were fiercely 
opposed on the ground that Catholics, having been 
granted equal rights, were now clamouring for special 
privileges. To-day the orthodox Unionist case 
against Home Rule is that all Catholic grievances, 
political, religious, and economic, have been remedied ; 
and therefore only the desire to exercise ascendancy 
prompts the demand for self-government. Were 
Ireland to-morrow ruled by Irishmen nothing is more 
certain than that the men who declared their resolve 
to resist autonomy '' even unto the shedding of blood," 
would make a virtue of having conceded self- 
government ; and would also use the fact of its 
existence as a triumphant argument against 
further readjustments. Unionist advocates, who 
denounced on platforms and in the Press every 
Land Act as shameless confiscation, and thought 
Lord Salisbury put it all too mildly when he 
described local government as worse than Home 
Rule, are nowadays quite convinced that these 


measures were carried by their agency, though they 
find it as difficult to convince others as did George the 
Fourth to persuade his intimates that he had led in 
person the final charge at Waterloo. 

The real true-blue Orangeman, to do him justice, 
makes no claim of having ever been a reformer. His 
sentiments are summed up in the words of one of his 
leaders, now safely ensconced on the Judicial bench, 
whose contribution to the political thought of his 
time was a fierce protest in Parliament against " the 
rotten, sickening policy of conciliation." This 
policy, the Orangeman holds, is not a thing of to-day 
or yesterday. It began as far back as the decision to 
relax the Penal Laws, and has continued with in- 
creased force ever since. England's fatal crime in 
Ireland has not been the denial of freedom, but the 
overthrow of Protestant Ascendancy, which the re- 
monstrance of the Dublin Corporation, quoted above, 
defined as " a Protestant King of Ireland, a Protestant 
Parliament, Protestant electors and Government, 
Protestant benches of Justice, a Protestant hierarchy, 
the army and revenue, through all their branches and 
details, Protestant, and this system supported by a 
connection with the Protestant realm of Britain." 
Any whittling down of this is part of the " rotten, 
sickening policy of conciliation ; " and whether it 
takes the shape of an Act of Union, Catholic Emanci- 
pation, or University reform, Orangemen can be relied 
on to oppose it tooth and nail. 



The creed of Orange Ulster would seem to be one of 
pure selfishness, but that is not how' it appears to its 
professors. They persuade themselves they are really 
serving not their own interests, but the interests of 
Great Britain, and that nothing but the Englishman's 
invincible ignorance of the realities of the Irish 
situation blinds him to this obvious fact. Their 
mission, as they see it, is to save England from the 
fatal effects of her own weakness ; and if, in doing 
so, they violate the letter of her law it is merely that 
they may the better preserve its spirit. This is not, 
as some historians assert, a piece of arrant hypocrisy. 
In every crisis in Irish politics, from the Rebellion of 
'98 to Sir Edward Carson's campaign against Home 
Rule, the minority in Ireland have had behind them 
the backing not merely of English partisans who 
openly applauded their tactics, but of English states- 
men and officials whose duty it was to enforce the law 
without fear, favour, or affection. These people, 
while disclaiming all responsibility for the results of 
Orange bigotry in practice, and affecting to deplore 
its survival in a civilised age, are well aware that it 
is their best political asset, and utilise it for their 
own ends with an unscrupulousness that takes no 
account of the real interests of either England or 
Ireland. I do not say that, lacking their support, 
Orangeism would have become a negligible factor in 
Irish affairs. There is, however, no doubt at all, and 
the closer one studies history the more forcibly is the 
truth brought home, that English influence is to 
Orangeism what a detonator is to dynamite. Without 


it there might be a blaze, but it would speedily burn 
itself out ; with it there are all the possibilities of a 
devastating explosion. 

It seems to have escaped the attention of the 
commentators that English reactionaries for over 
a century never find themselves in difficulties that 
they do not strive to rally Orange fanaticism to their 
side. Times and men may change, but the tactics 
are always the same. The letters of General Knox to 
Pelham on the eve of '98, in which he advocates the 
arming of the Orangemen on the ground that it would 
increase the animosity between the Episcopalians and 
the United Irishmen, and justifies the proposal by 
the argument that " upon this animosity depends 
the safety of the centre counties of the North," differ 
not at all in sentiment, and very little in wording, 
from the letters by British officers read at Carsonite 
meetings on the eve of the Curragh mutiny of 1914. 
English Tories, who before the war with Germany 
hailed the Orange legions as shock-troops whose 
impact would not only break Nationalism but 
would teach Radicalism and Labour their places, are 
merely carrying on the tradition of their predecessors 
who- in 1832 plotted to use the Ulstermen to destroy 
the hopes of the English Reformers. 

This movement to defeat by the aid of Orangeism 
the first timid advance towards popular representation 
in Parliament is singularly interesting from the 
similarity of the methods adopted to those which are 
now regarded as the special monopoly of Sir Edward 
Carson. Most writers who have dealt with the subject 
have, in my opinion, wandered from the real point in 
their anxiety to prove or disprove the charge that the 
Orangemen of that period were engaged in a treason- 
able conspiracy to change the succession to the Crown 
by excluding Princess Victoria in favour of her uncle, 
the Duke of Cumberland. I shall deal with the 


question of the conspiracy later, and the part played 
in it by the redoubtable Colonel William Blenner- 
hasset Fairman, the Carson of those days. For the 
moment I wish to concentrate attention on the fact 
that, whatever hidden designs they may have enter- 
tained, Orangemen openly proclaimed, when they 
saw the imminence of drastic changes in the system 
of Parliamentary representation, their intention of 
making their Order a power in Great Britain as well 
as in Ulster formidable enough to break, by physical 
force if necessary, the strength of the Reform move- 

On this point the admissions of Fairman, who was 
elected Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary for 
Great Britain in 1831, are conclusive. Shortly after 
his appointment, in a letter to Sir James Cockburn 
describing a Twelfth of July dinner in London, he 
writes : " My own fine fellows who compose the 
lodges in the capital and its environs, none of whom 
are Reformers, for upon this vital point I sounded 
them, are staunch to the backbone. Should it be 
required of them to muster for the protection of the 
lives or the property of those uncompromising men 
who may possess the spirit to brave hostility by an 
opposition to so monstrous a plan, at my summons 
they would assemble, and under my command they 
would place themselves for putting their principles 
to the test." 

Amongst his " fine fellows " Fairman placed the 
soldiers first. " We have the military with us," he 
informed the Marquis of Londonderry in a letter 
written on 30th July, 1832. In another communica- 
tion urging a more strenuous campaign amongst the 
troops, he states, " As Orangemen there would be an 
additional security for their allegiance and unalterable 
fidelity in times like the present, when revolutionary 
writers are striving to stir them up to open sedition 


and mutiny." The boast was not so empty as some 
of the vaunts in which Fairman indulged. Orangeism 
had made rapid headway in the army into which it 
was first introduced during the '98 Rebelhon, English 
and Scottish militia regiments adopting its tenets 
from the Ulster yeomen with whom they were bri- 
gaded. Orange yeomen and militia, who after the 
Insurrection volunteered for the regular army, helped 
to spread the new gospel amongst the forces of the 
Crown. Lodges were formed in many regiments, and 
in some cases Orange colours were openly worn on 
parade. Naturally Catholic soldiers did not take kindly 
to these displays, and in several camps the practice 
gave rise to fierce disputes and furious encounters. So 
high did the feeling run in the Chelmsford Garrison 
that the Brigadier, Colonel Cockburn, issued an order 
forbidding any soldiers under his command to wear 
a badge or mark of party, and directed oflicers to put 
under arrest those who displayed party emblems. 

Apart from the necessity of preserving discipline, 
it was obvious that to favour Orangeism in the Army 
Avould hopelessly prejudice Irish recruiting at a time 
when Catholic soldiers were the backbone of the 
regular regiments. Yet the Chelmsford prohibition 
was the exception, not the rule ; and Orangeism 
became more powerful than ever when his Royal 
Highness Frederick, Duke of York, was appointed 
Commander-in-Chief. He was not only an Orangeman, 
but was elected Grand Master of the Order in 1821, 
acknowledging the honour in a letter written from 
the Horse Guards. It is true he did not retain his 
exalted office long. The scandal of a Commander-in- 
Chief presiding over a secret society, whose operations 
divided his best regiments into hostile factions, was 
altogether too gross. Moreover, the Orange oath 
was at this time wholly illegal in England, and the 
Duke of York was consequently forced to resign his 


Grand Mastership. But, according to the author of 
the History of Orangeism, he never severed his con- 
nection with the Order ; almost his last public act, 
before his death in January, 1827, was to receive a 
deputation from the Grand Lodge of Great Britain 
which desired to thank him for his services in 
opposing Catholic Emancipation. Though the Duke 
of York ceased to be Grand Master, the position was 
not filled till after his death, when his brother, the 
Duke of Cumberland, succeeded to the office. This 
strengthens the suspicion that York's resignation 
was largely for show purposes ; and there is no 
doubt at all that his influence was used, even 
after his nominal resignation, to spread Orangeism 
throughout the forces. Cumberland's appoint- 

ment as Grand Master was followed by a decree 
remitting in the case of soldiers and sailors the 
Orange initiation fee ; and the report of the Com- 
mittee of the House of Commons, set up in 1835 to 
inquire into the Orange Institution in Great Britain 
and the Colonies, shows that in 1880 lodges existed in 
some thirty regiments or corps. 

The best proof of the policy adopted by the Horse 
Guards while the Duke of York held sway is the 
complaint by Fairman that after his death every 
impediment was thrown in the way of military lodges. 
This, however, seems scarcely to tally with the facts, 
for, as the Report of the Commons Committee makes 
clear, the Duke of Cumberland was continually 
engaged as Grand Master in issuing new warrants for 
army lodges. Fairman, in recommending himself to 
the Duke of Cumberland, boasts of " the most satis- 
factory testimonials under the hand of the late 
lamented Commander-in-Chief," and of " the in- 
numerable communications I had the honour of 
making to him during a series of years, on affairs of 
vital importance to the safety not alone of his august 


family, but of the existence of the Empire, which I 
miight be justified in affirming it was my pecuHar 
good fortune to have been instrumental in rescuing 
from commotion in more instances than one." 

This brings me to the question of Fairman's Plot 
over which controversy still rages fiercely between 
Orangemen and their opponents. To fight 

Catholic Emancipation a new organisation had been 
established in Great Britain and Ireland, called the 
Brunswick Constitutional Clubs. Orangeism at that 
time was under a cloud in both countries, and it was 
felt that an association free from the stigma of a 
secret society would make a wider appeal to good 
Protestants. The object of the Brunswickers, as 
they were known, was to oppose further concessions 
to Catholics, or, as one of their members put it, " the 
evil is the existence of Papist ascendancy ; and 
the only remedy, therefore, must be to secure Pro- 
testant ascendancy." Their critics, however, attri- 
buted to the Brunswickers even more ambitious 
designs ; and Daniel O'Connell, who had a pleasant 
habit of alluding to the Brunswick Clubs as " blood- 
hound kennels," expressed openly in a speech in the 
autumn of 1828 a suspicion which was widely held in 
Nationalist Ireland. 

" I will now state to you," O'Connell said, 
" the cause of the origin of the Brunswick 
Clubs in England and Ireland. The health of 
his Majesty (George IV.) is much worse than we are 
allowed to hear. At his time of life, if it be true, as 
I fear it is, that a fixed dropsy has set in, there is real 
cause of apprehension for the consequences. The 
next heir to the throne (William IV.) is certainly a 
popular character ; he also is said to be ill. Now his 
successor is the Princess Victoria ; she is as excel- 
lently educated as can be possibly desired ; her 
illustrious mother is in every respect one of the most 


estimable of her sex ; the breath of calumny has 
never even dared to attempt to tarnish the character 
of the Duchess of Kent. The daughter of this excellent 
lady should be our legitimate Sovereign ; but there 
are those who would like to govern without a Parlia- 
ment — that faction which is tired of having a Parlia- 
ment — who are tired of climbing up the ladder of 
preferment upon the mere strength of their own 
merits. These know that the Catholics have again 
become wealthy, and that if a change be made in the 
dynasty they will come in for more than a proper 
share of power ; and so, to bring about this, they are 
determined either to alter the succession or compel 
the Princess to marry her cousin. Prince George of 

William the Fourth succeeded to the Throne without 
any attempt on the part of the Orangemen to effect a 
coup d'etat. In the confusion of the Reform agitation 
the old rumours, however, were again revived, 
though legally, I admit, the evidence is not convincing 
that Fairman and his colleagues seriously invited the 
lodges to enter into a conspiracy to change the line 
of succession to the British Crown in favour of their 
own Grand Master, the Duke of Cumberland. Fairman 
is supposed to have made his proposal in 1832, but the 
charge of treason was not launched against him until 
after the publication in 1835 of the Report of the 
Select Committee, which condemned the Orange 
Society root and branch. The accuser, a man named 
Haywood, had kept the secret locked in his breast for 
three years, during which he remained a member of 
the Order, and it was only after he had been expelled 
from his lodge on other grounds that he hurled his 
bombshell at the Orange leaders. Fairman imme- 
diately replied by filing an information against 
Haywood for criminal libel, a step which Joseph 
Hume and the English Radicals sought to counter by 


demanding the prosecution of the Duke of Cumber- 
land, Lord Kenyon, the Bishop of Sahsbury, and 
Fairman as members of an illegal organisation. 
Before any action could be taken in the courts 
Haywood died, with the result that the cases were 
never heard. In the next session of Parliament, 
how^ever, the King, in reply to a resolution of the 
Commons, announced his determination " to take 
such steps as may seem to me advisable for the 
effectual discouragement of Orange lodges, and, 
generally, of all political societies excluding persons 
of a different religious faith." On this declaration 
Cumberland resigned his Grand Mastership, and the 
Orange Society of Great Britain dissolved, though it 
was re-established with new " laws and ordinances " 
some ten years later. 

It would be unjust to take party speeches in the 
Commons as evidence of Fairman's intentions, but the 
correspondence between himself and the Orange 
leaders on the question of the re-organisation of the 
Order in Great Britain, which Hume managed to 
secure and publish in the London Post, reveals a good 
deal about the man and his mission. Fairman's 
appointment in 1831 as Grand Secretary and Grand 
Treasurer for Great Britain took place at an ex- 
ceedingly critical juncture in Orange history. Catholic 
Emancipation Avas a staggering blow to the Society, 
whose members were wholly of Lord Eld on' s opinion 
that " if ever a Roman Catholic was permitted to 
form part of the legislature of this country, from that 
moment the sun of Great Britain would set." They 
were confirmed in their belief when hard on the heels 
of the Relief Act came the threat of Parliamentary 
Reform, which Orangemen regarded in much the 
same light as a modern Tory would an attempt to 
substitute government by Soviets for government 
by Parliament. Nor was this the view of Orange- 


men alone. It was shared by a great body of 
Conservatives who had taken no active part in the 
last phases of the struggle to prevent Catholic 
Emancipation, which they recognised must inevitably 
come, but who saw a deadly menace to their own 
privileges not only in Reform, but in the reign of 
" Jacobinical license " which, they had persuaded 
themselves, would follow Reform. 

Fairman's main objects are plainly enough defined 
in his correspondence. He desired to strengthen the 
Order by recruiting " men of influence and considera- 
tion " to act as County Grand Masters, and give a 
lead to " the classes in humble life " who, with a 
little judicious encouragement, would flock into the 
lodges. As Fairman acutely pointed out, the " higher 
orders " stood to benefit economically as well as 
politically by backing Orangeism. In the Luddite 
disturbances the Orangemen of Manchester and 
neighbourhood had shown themselves eager to act 
against the strikers ; and it was popularly believed, 
though the charge has been denied, that the Yeomanry 
who perpetrated the Peterloo massacre were members 
of the Society. In urging the Marquis of Londonderry 
to join the movement, Fairman tells him that the 
Durham miners might be induced by his example to 
establish lodges amongst themselves, which " would 
likewise prove," he adds, " a partial check against 
their entering into cabals hereafter, no less to the 
preservation of private property than to that of the 
public peace." 

To the same correspondent Fairman outlined his 
campaign in words that sum up the policy which, 
eighty years later, another Marquis of London- 
derry expounded on Carsonite platforms : — " By a 
rapid augmentation of our physical force we might be 
able to assume a boldness of attitude which should 
command the respect of our Jacobinical rulers. What 


the Catholics and the (trade) unionists have achieved 
by agitation and clamour in a factious cause, we might 
be enabled to effect in a righteous one. If we prove 
not too strong for such a Government as the present 
is, such a Government will soon prove too strong for 
us ; some arbitrary step would be taken in this case 
for the suspension of our meetings. Hence the 
necessity of our laying aside that non-resistance, that 
passive obedience, which has hitherto been religiously 
enforced to our own discomfiture." 

With the approval, and by the warrant, of his 
" valued brother, Cumberland," Fairman was dis- 
patched, at the expense of the Grand Lodge, to preach 
these doctrines in Scotland and the North Country 
where Orangeism was strongest. On military matters 
connected with the Institution he reported directly 
to the Duke of Cumberland. The nature of these 
reports remains unknown, but Lord Kenyon's replies 
to the chronicles of the missionary make curious 
reading. Thus almost the best that can be said of 
Scotland is that " Swaney takes some time to be well 
roused, but when he imbibes the heat of Orangeism 
he will not lose it again." In Lord Kenyon's opinion 
it was splendid that the Duke of Gordon should 
have joined the standard, but " a great pity that the 
amiable Duke of Buccleugh does not see the immense 
importance of sanctioning such a cause as the Orange 
cause, identified as it is with high Conservative 

Fairman, whose duties ranged from presiding at 
lodge dinners to distributing '' anti-Roman Catholic 
books " to peers and bishops, complains that he is 
kept out of bed " till two in the morning, labouring to 
get my business under, which in spite of all my 
industry still gains upon me." At Barnsley, where he 
established a lodge, he declares that all the ladies, 
" the blue belles of Yorkshire," are with us ; and 


relating how these " noble dames " shed tears when 
His Royal Highness's health was proposed at a dinner 
party, he adds, " by excess of toil my own nerves 
are so unstrung too, that in making to your Lordship 
this report, I am playing the woman." But Fairman 
boasts the strong hand as well as the tender heart; and 
has no hesitation in urging the suspension or, if neces- 
sary, the expulsion from the Order of " some disorderly 
men in or near Bolton who have shown something 
like a radical spirit." Fairman's " excess of toil," 
however, achieved little or nothing. As he found the 
lodges, in his own phrase, " trunks without heads," 
so he left them. At the conclusion of his tour Lord 
Keynon is discovered mournfully admitting that 
" certainly if the whole body were rotten it had better 
be dissolved and renewed ; but that could only, 
perhaps, be after communication with the sound 
heads or sound members of the different lodges." 
The Deputy Grand Master requests the Grand 
Secretary " to send me the ipsissima verba which 
you wish to introduce to prevent disloyalty among 
our brethren"; and characteristically concludes, "be 
so good as to send it under weight, as to-day's letter 
has cost me three shillings and eight pence." 

It is a tame and distressing end to a crusade begun 
with so loud a flourish of trumpets. I do not know 
what arguments Fairman used in the hope of firing 
enthusiasm, but, judging by the hectic tone of his 
letters, his advocacy was not likely to err on the side 
of moderation. It is quite possible that he exceeded 
the instructions of his employers, more especially as 
he prided himself on the possession of " an apoca- 
lyptical gift, an intuitive light " denied to lesser 
mortals. Haywood's charge does not appear as 
fantastic as Orange apologists would have us believe^ 
when it is discovered that Fairman first introduced 
himself to the Duke of Cumberland as one who had 


unearthed, not invented, a plot to change the succes- 
sion to the Crown. His letter to Cumberland is 
incomplete, but the "" rash design in embryo," of 
which ominous hints are given, refers undoubtedly 
to the scheme, detailed in a private communication 
to John Sidney Taylor of the Morning Herald, which 
aimed, so Fairman asserts, at establishing on the 
death of George IV. a regency Avith the Duke of 
Wellington as dictator. " Some whisperings," 

Fairman writes, " have also gone abroad that in the 
event of the demise of the Crown a regency would 
probably be established, for reasons which occasioned 
the removal of the next in succession from the office of 
high admiral. That a Maritime Government might 
not prove consonant to the views of a military chief- 
tain of the most abounded ambition may admit of 
easy belief ; and as the second heir-presumptive is 
not alone a female but a minor, in addition to the 
argument, which might be applied to the present, 
that in the ordinary course of nature it was not to be 
expected that his reign could be of long duration, in 
these disjointed times it is by no means unlikely a 
vicarious form of government may be attempted. 
It would only be necessary to make out a plausible 
case, which from the facts on record there could be 
no difficulty in doing, to the satisfaction of a pliable 
and obsequious set of ministers as also to the success 
of the experiment." 

Fairman " obtests the Deity " that his object in 
informing Cumberland of the scheme is that " should 
the experiment be made, and its expediency be 
established, your Royal Highness would be in a 
situation to contend for the exercise in your own 
person of that office at which the wild ambition of 
another may prompt him to aspire." This points, 
not to usurpation, but to the establishment of a 
Protectorate ; and there can be little doubt that the 


desirability of placing power in Cumberland's hands, 
should the Princess Victoria be called to the throne 
before she had reached her majority, was, to Fair- 
man's mind, increased rather than diminished by the 
passing of the Reform Act. It is clear also that, unlike 
his superiors, he saw Parliamentary agitation offered 
no prospects of success. They were always hoping 
against hope that the electors would rise in their 
wrath against " Radicalism " ; Fairman frankly held 
the view that the right policy was not to influence 
Parliament, but to dominate it. " With a Govern- 
ment," he declared, " that yields to clamour what it 
would deny to justice we ought to be vociferous in 
proportion." Again, writing to the Duke of Gordon, 
the Orange leader in Scotland, Fairman argues : "If 
we are to be considered as the auxiliary force of a 
constitvitional Government we ought to be in a state 
of efficiency for such a purpose ; if we are to be 
arrayed in hostility to a Republican Ministry, we ought 
to be in a condition to check their subversive courses." 

It is probable enough that if Fairman pressed these 
counsels on his leaders his exhortations to the rank 
and file were even more vehement and unrestrained. 
In the privacy of lodge meetings he may easily have 
uttered sentiments that smacked of " contingent 
treason," more especially as such sentiments have 
always been the merest commonplaces of Orange 
oratory. After all, Fairman, so far as I know, never 
said anything as strong as the warlike parson, Mr. 
Flanagan, who declared in 1868, that if the Irish 
Church was disestablished, Queen Victoria, having 
broken her coronation oath, would have forfeited her 
claim to the Crown ; nor did he rise to the sublime 
heights of Sir Edward Carson and his lieutenants. 

How far Fairman's instructions permitted him to 
preach sedition, and whether he exceeded these in- 
structions, are questions that are unlikely ever to be 



answered. But a curious letter, which conchides the 
correspondence published by Hume, suggests that 
the Grand Secretary believed his employers had 
gone so far as to place themselves in his power. 
Writing to a friend, whose name is indicated 
only by the initials " D. . . . C. . . .," Fairman says : 
" By returning the Palladiums with a small packet of 
letters from kings and princes I left for your perusal, 
you will oblige me very much. As circumstances will 
at length compel me to seek a compensation from 
royalty for my services and surrenders in their ser- 
vice, should not an appeal to their justice, made con- 
fidentially and respectfully in the first instance, be 
productive of the desired end, I shall enforce my 
claims through the medium of the Press, both in 
pamphlets and papers, when a dread of exposure may 
prompt them to do that which ought to have emanated 
jProm a sense of gratitude." Whether Fairman actually 
blackmailed the Cumberlands and Kenyons remains 
a mystery, but his refusal to produce documents 
demanded by the Select Committee, even when 
summoned for contumacy to the bar of the House, 
strengthens the suspicion that he had extorted good 
terms for himself from the heads of the Order. 



I HAVE dwelt on the Fairman Plot at what may seem 
undue length, because the exaggerations and denials 
of controversialists on both sides have obscured the 
essential facts, and also because of the curious parallel 
it offers to events in Sir Edward Carson's campaign. 
If Fairman whispered secretly in lodge meetings that 
William IV. ought to be deposed for having signed 
the Reform Bill, Orange orators openly declared that 
the passing of the Home Rule Bill would absolve them 
from their allegiance. " Platform treason," as T. M. 
Kettle said, '' is not so much an eccentricity as a habit 
of Orangeism." But it is worthy of notice that while 
this " platform treason " may flatter the prejudices 
of the rank and file, it is always designed to serve the 
economic interests of their leaders. This is as true 
to-day as it was seventy years ago, when John 
Mitchel warned the Ulster Orangemen that freedom 
to denounce the Pope and all his works was a poor 
substitute for the loss of tenant right. 

" The Irish nobleman and the British states- 
man,' Mitchel urged, " want the very same 
thing : they are both a tail. The grand master 
knows that if you stick by your loyalty and 
uphold the British connection you secure to 
him his coronet, his influence, and his rental — 
discharged of tenant right and all plebian claims. . . . 
Irish landlordism has made a covenant with British 
government in these terms — Keep down for me my 
tenantry, my peasantry, my ' masses ' in due sub- 
mission with your troops and laws, and I will garrison 
the island for you and hold it as your liege-man and 


vassal for ever ! " The industrial capitalist who has 
stepped into the landlord's shoes makes practically the 
same claim to-day. To the Times, and to the party 
whose ideals Lord Northclii'fe expresses, the value of 
Sir Edward Carson's crusade was that it strengthened 
'* the conservatism of Ulster." '' By disciplining the 
Ulster democracy and by leading it to look up to them 
as its natural leaders, the clergy and gentry," so the 
Thnes asserted on 9th May, 1913. ** are providing 
against the spread of revolutionarv doctrine and free 

The lesson, it would seem, has been well learned. 
In a pamphlet consisting of articles reprinted in 1917 
from the Morning Post, we are informed, " there is 
at least one place in the Kingdom where, although 
there is much noise, there is no talking and, in con- 
sequence, no strikes — that place is Ulster. ' Have 
you had any visits from the Red Flaggers here ? ' I 
inquired of a stolid-faced riveter in the Belfast ship- 
yards. An emphatic nod was the answer. ' What did 
you do to them ? ' I asked. The reply was a flash of 
steely, work-tired eyes and a downward jerk of a 
thumb in the direction of an exceedingly uninviting 
pool of oily water. . . . The Ulster folk have learnt by 
bitter experience to discriminate between loyalty and 
treachery, and if they had the reins of government in 
their hands half the cranks and pacifists would long 
a^o have been hanoed as hisfh as Haman." 

The writer states rather what he imagines ought to 
be the case than actual facts. During the war not 
one strike but many took place in the Belfast ship- 
yards, though I readily admit in practically every 
case these were due more to Government bungling, 
especially in regard to the payment of the Hills bonus, 
than to the tyranny of the masters or the greed of the 
men. In the linen trade friction was still more acute. 
The refusal of a demand bv the tenters for an advance 


resulted in tlircAviiig thousands of weavers out of 
work for weeks. So far from showing any desire to 
end the trouble the employers declined to recognise 
the Government arbitrator or plead their case before 
him. The Morning Post correspondent hails Ulster 
as a Tory Utopia, where *' a common religion, a com- 
mon cause — Imperiahsm — common interests and as- 
pirations, all of these when imperilled brought about 
a close psychological communion between rich and 
poor, betw^een employers and employees." It is an 
attractive picture, but the colours, I fear, would 
have lost some of their brightness had the author 
sought his facts in artisans' kitchens as well as in 
manufacturers' offices.* 

Orangemen can still crow^ loudly enough on their 
own dunghill, but that nowadays is almost the only 
consolation left to them. Their opponents, indeed, 
represent them as a pampered and privileged class, 
which, as the price of acting as "England's faithful 
garrison," has been, and still is, loaded with rewards 
and favours. As far as the rank and file of the Order are 
concerned this, in modern times at least, is ridiculously 
untrue, and I have always held that Nationalists by 
continuing to make it their staple argument wilfully 
deprive themselves of their strongest controversial 

* The great engineers' strike of Jannarj^ and February last 
threw a cimoiis hght on " tlie close psychological communion 
between enriployers and employees " which, according to the 
Morning Post, distinguishes happy Belfast from all other 
industrial areas in the Three Kingdoms. Alas ! for tlie 
binding force of a common Imperialism and a common 
religion. Imperialistic employers, who made the heavens 
ring with their protests against a "pogrom plot " when the 
military were ordered to Belfast at the climax of the Carson 
conspiracy, clamom'ed now for machine gmis to cow 
their Orange and Protestant workers, whose demand for a 
forty -four hours week had transformed them, in their masteis' 
eyes, from pillars of the constitution into ravening Bolshe\'iks. 


weapon. The Orangeman may be a traitor to the 
national cause — though this is highly disputable, 
inasmuch as he vehemently repudiates the theory of 
an obligation — but, even assuming he is, he has failed 
wholly to obtain his thirty pieces of silver. And since 
he professes to judge the merits of a political creed 
purely by its practical results, it is relevant to insist 
that it is truer of him than of the despised Celt that 
" he wxnt forth to battle but he always fell." 

His services in '98 were rewarded not with the 
maintenance of Protestant Ascendancy for which he 
fought, but with the Union, which, he was quick to 
see, meant sooner or later the destruction of his 
ascendancy. Castlereagh's proposals were bitterly 
opposed by thousands of Orangemen, and the con- 
troversies to which they gave rise nearly wrecked the 
Institution. The Grand Lodge sought to lay an 
embargo on free discussion inside the Order ; but its 
members were roundly informed that they were 
" placed, pensioned, and bought," and Orangemen 
were urged to submit no longer " to the directors of 
a lodge which is principally composed of persons who 
are under a certain influence, which is exerted against 
the rights of Ireland." Having bought Parliament by 
open bribes, and squared the Presbyterian Church by 
increasing the Regium Donum, Castlereagh found it a 
comparatively simple affair to close the mouths of 
the Orange leaders. With a few honourable excep- 
tions they obtained their price ; and the rank and file 
were left to find what comfort they could in the 
reflection that, as the brethren of Coagh district put 
it, " We are not now the divided, rebellious people 
which recently disgraced this island, as we perceive 
and acknowledge the necessity of a compacted Union, 
in order to promote our mutual prosperity." 

The Union was for Orangeism merely the first of a 
long series of " betrayals." Catholic Emancipation, 


Disestablishment, Land Reform, and Home Rule — all 
the great movements of the century, which have been 
to the Nationalist stepping-stones towards his goal, 
are to the Orangeman shattering and irretrievable 
defeats. He resisted one and all in the name of 
England, and with the promise of English support, 
only to find himself left hopelessly in the lurch. Yet 
the lodges, with a devotion that would be pathetic 
had it the merit of being intelligent, are still ready to 
volunteer for every Tory forlorn hope, buoying them- 
selves with the idea that some day England will see 
the error of her ways, and, flinging off the rags and 
tatters of an effete Liberalism, will revert to the full- 
blooded methods of Castlereagh and Eldon. If one 
could imagine an American Party which cherished the 
dream of upsetting the Declaration of Independence, 
and all that hinges upon it, one would get something 
like an approximation to the Orange view. It is these 
incorrigible Don Quixotes of politics who taunt Irish 
Nationalists with being mere dreamers of dreams. 
Tilting at windmills, and charging innocent sheep in 
mistake for Paynim hordes, the campaigns in which 
they spend themselves so zestfully are memorable 
only for their grotesque futility. 

Nothing would be easier than to present a picture 
which should show the Orangemen as relentless 
persecutors before whom Nationalists cower in abject 
fear. Apart from the fact that such a picture, far from 
bringing a blush to the cheek of the " Brethren," 
flatters their sense of power, it represents a state of 
affairs which, in modern times, has no foundation in 
fact. Elections are still stirring events in Ulster ; 
but they are no longer conducted as they were in 
Trim in 1834, when two hundred Orangemen armed 
with pistols and daggers, and led by a clergyman 
named Preston, marched into the town, and were 
informed by the Tory candidate, " our reliance is on 


you." The sheriff himself had to wrest a pistol from 
one of the Brethren in the polling booth ; and on 
their homeward march they killed a Catholic named 
Henry apparently for the fun of the thing. Again at 
Annahagh, in the following year, a party of Orangemen 
armed to the teeth burned in broad daylight seven 
Catholic houses in the village, and " wrecked and 
devastated " nine others. On the approach of a force 
of police and artillery they took up a position on a 
neighbouring hill with fixed bayonets, declined to 
surrender their weapons or disperse, and finally 
marched off with all the honours of war '' in regular 
order with sloped arms." Not a single offender was 
punished for this outrage, and had any been arrested 
they would have had little reason to fear the result. 
Two Orangemen who had stabbed a Catholic youth 
at Tanderagee in 1835 were acquitted on the charge 
of murder, and sentenced to twelve months inprison- 
ment for riot and assault. On their release they were 
escorted to their homes by a procession of Orangemen 
with bands and colours. One hero was promptly 
received into the police on the recommendation of a 
Protestant clergyman, and the other enrolled as a 
member of a yeomanry corps. 

There was little exaggeration in Shell's description 
of the administration of the law at this period. 
" Picture to yourself," he said, " an Irish court of 
Justice. An Orangeman is indicted ; in the jury-box 
twelve Orangemen are placed ; the magistrates, if 
the case be tried at Quarter Sessions, are members of 
this fatal fraternity. Under these circumstances, what 
a mockery is the administration of justice ! " 

Judge Fletcher, in a famous charge to the Wexford 
Grand Jury in 1814, speaking as one " attached to no 
party," stated the case quite as strongly as Shell. 
" These societies, called Orange Societies," he said, 
" have produced most mischievous effects, and par- 


ticiilarly in the Nortli of Ireland. They poison the 
very fountains of justice, and even some magistrates 
under their influence have, in too many cases, violated 
their duty and their oaths. ... Of this I am certain, 
that, so long as those associations are permitted to 
act in the lawless manner they do, there will be no 
tranquillity in this country, and particularly in the 
North of Ireland. There those disturbers of the 
public peace, who assume the name of Orange Yeomen, 
frequent the fairs and markets with arms in their 
hands, under the pretence of self-defence, or of 
protecting the public peace, but with the lurking view 
of inviting attacks from the Ribbonmen, confident 
that, armed as they are, they must overcome defence- 
less opponents, and put them down. . . . The oaths of 
the Orange Association or of the Ribbonmen have, 
indeed, continued to be obligatory. As for oaths 
administered in a court of justice, they have been set 
at naught. . . . ' I am a loyal man,' says a witness ; 
that is, ' Gentlemen of the Jury, believe me, let me 
swear what I will.' When he swears he is a loyal man 
he means, ' Gentlemen of the Jury, forget your oaths 
and acquit the Orangemen.' . . . Such are the pre- 
tenders to loyalty, many of whom I have seen ; and 
incalculable mischiefs they perpetrate. It is not their 
interest that their country should be peaceful ; their 
loyalty is a ' sea of troubled waters.' " 

The official Orange answer to this indictment is that 
it was " a vile calumny, a disgrace to the ermine," 
uttered by a Judge who had the temerity to differ 
from Lord Norbury on the question of Catholic 
Emancipation. The " Orange Yeomen," the historian 
of the Order declares, " had practically disappeared 
when Judge Fletcher referred to them." With 
delightful naivete the author fails to see that his own 
explanation of their disappearance goes a long way to 
support the charges he is endeavouring to refute. 


Ireland, he laments, was deprived of the services of 
manly Protestants because they were courageous 
enough to stick to their principles. The yeomen of 
Armagh and Bandon laid down their arms rather 
than obey the order to parade without Orange favours 
on their uniforms ; and when a yeomanry corps in 
County Down refused to admit Catholics to the ranks, 
and was disbanded by the authorities, Mr. Sibbett's 
comment is '' experience had taught the men that a 
mixture was impracticable." 

This view admirably illustrates the central doctrine 
of Orangeism. It is the duty of Nationalists to obey 
the law simply because it is the law ; Unionists, on 
the other hand, must be satisfied that the law squares 
with their prejudices, and if it fails to do this, its decrees 
have no binding force upon them. Of late years the 
burden of their cry has been that legislation is directed 
wholly against their interests. This they attribute 
to the Machiavellian wiles of the Nationalists, com- 
pletely ignoring the fact that those who imagine that 
Parliaments should move along eighteenth century 
lines in a twentieth century world are dooming them- 
selves to bitter disappointment. A century ago the 
Orangeman threatened in the tone of one who was 
accustomed to extort submission ; nowadays he 
still threatens, but moans mingle strangely with his 
menaces. No Nationalist can surpass him in denun- 
ciations of British bad faith. " Nothing," Sir Edward 
Carson declared, " has done more harm in Ireland 
than the broken pledges of British Governments ; " 
and one of the Belfast Orange papers, in endorsing 
its leader's words, annoimced that Ulster Unionists 
had long grown weary of "being bought, sold, and hag- 
gled over by English Ministers like cattle at a fair." 

The obvious thing under the circumstances would 
seem to be for Orangemen to work out their own 
salvation, independently of such treacherous allies. 


This solution, though it might not be distasteful to the 
rank and file, finds scant favour with the leaders, for 
the simple reason that nine times out of ten they are 
English Tories first and Ulster Orangemen a long way 
after. In his own view the incarnation of Tennyson's 
'' still strong man in a blatant land," the Orangeman, 
to the rest of the world, presents a spectacle which is 
pathetic rather than impressive. He may, as his 
opponents declare, stand for Junkerdom, but it is 
Junker dom no longer a ravening beast, but mangy and 
toothless, with claws pared to the quick, and little of 
the lion left save the power to roar. Penned behind 
the waters of the Boyne and the Foyle, he surveys 
with melancholy eyes a world in which even those 
whom he was accustomed to regard as allies have 
adopted as their creed the worst heresies of his 
secular foes. " Government by the consent of the 
governed " is a phrase more favoured than the 
" rights of the ruling race." Except in the columns 
of the Belfast Press and the Morning Post, the 
Imperialistic big-drum, however vigorously it may be 
banged, has no chance against the war-cry of " self- 
determination " raised by " the lesser breeds without 
the law," who, a few short years ago, were supposed to 
deserve, and indeed to desire, no better fate than that 
of meekly submitting to the control of peoples strong 
enough to hold their own in a world where there was 
no appeal from the rule of force. 

Orangeism, though it made a stout fight, as its 
worst enemies must admit, was from the first a forlorn 
hope. It was born at least a century too late. By 
1795, when the Order as we know it to-day took 
shape, doctrines that had been the axioms of the Whig 
Revolution of 1690 already wore the air of grotesque 
anachronisms. In that year the French Revolution, 
to quote Dr. Holland Rose, " passing out of the 
molten state, began to solidify " ; and Orangeism, 


which was at once a protest against and a challenge 
to " the levelling principles of Jacobinism," w^as 
doomed before long to find itself in the position of the 
earthen pan in collision wdth the brazen vessels. 

In the twentieth century an attempt to claim 
privilege on the ground of religion is less a danger to 
the State than an outrage on common sense, as the 
most thorough-going champions of the Brethren are 
slow^ly coming to realize. Democracy, so long their 
pet abomination, has come to its own in name, if not 
altogether in reality ; and Orangemen, to whom the 
creed of equality and fraternity as between Protestant 
and Catholic was rank blasphemy, now, amusingly 
enough, claim to be guardians and defenders of the 
democratic tradition. It is true they interpret this as 
meaning that a Protestant minority, however small, 
must rank as equal to a Catholic majority, however 
large, though, when the case is reversed, their 
opponents are bound to accept in all its rigour the 
principle of deciding policy by counting heads. If 
the advance is not very great it serves to show that, 
despite the denials of most of its supporters and 
practically all its critics, Orangeism is not absolutely 
impervious to the pressure of modern ideas. 

I know it will be argued that where Orangeism is 
concerned one is dealing not with political prejudices 
which may be softened by reason, but with religious 
antagonisms against which logic is of no avail. There 
is an element of truth in this contention, but, per- 
sonally, I must confess I am wholly sceptical as to the 
reality of the religious convictions which are popularly 
supposed to inspire the most characteristic mani- 
festations of Orangeism. While it would be criminal 
to minimise the deplorable results of sectarian 
bigotry in Ulster, it is quite possible to exaggerate 
their significance. Awed by his official reputation for 
*' dourness " and stark sincerity, strangers are accus- 


tomed to take the threats of Orangemen much more 
seriously than those against whom they are directed. 
Well-meaning sentimentalists from the other side of 
the Channel, who, greatly daring, have spent a few 
hours in the back lanes of the Shankill Road, describe 
with shuddering horror a community inflamed by a 
blood-feud and sighing for pogroms in the name of 
religion. But the Orangeman, like the Fat Boy in 
Pickwick, delights in making people's flesh creep ; 
and his grievance is that while he can still impress 
outsiders his real opponents are nowadays inclined 
rather to smile than to shiver. 

As a matter of fact the worst form of Ulster bigotry 
is not that of the mobs of stone-throwers and looters 
who on anniversaries sacred to the victor of the 
Boyne make history of a sort in the North of Ireland. 
Their fury, if fierce, soons burns itself out ; and a 
week after an upheaval that filled the Belfast hos- 
pitals with broken heads, I have seen men who were 
foremost in the fray on different sides drinking 
together in all good comradeship. The really hateful 
thing is the attitude of the middle classes and the 
so-called leaders of opinion, clerical as well as lay. 
Too respectable or too cowardly — it comes to much 
the same thing — to work off their bad blood in a fair 
fight with fists or stones, they are not ashamed to 
use the platform, the Press, and even the pulpit, to 
deepen rancours, which, had they cared to employ 
their powers to better ends, would long since have 
been no more than an unhappy memory. On its 
record there is no difficulty in obtaining a conviction 
against Orangeism, but there is small satisfaction in 
placing it in the dock if those who made it their in- 
strument are permitted, as always in the past, to go 
scot free. 

As a matter of fact the average Orangeman is simple 
rather than satanic. Even in his lodge-rooms he is not 


always meditating the iniquities of the Vatican ; and 
he values his creed for other reasons than the lusty- 
vigour of its hymns of hate. With other primitive 
minds he delights in mysteries for mysteries' sake, 
and Orange ritual makes exactly the sort of appeal 
that he finds irresistible. Its passwords and hand- 
grips, its symbolism of Jacob's Ladders and skulls 
and crossbones, its weird nomenclature of " Purple 
Men" and ''Black Men," "Grand Masters" and 
" Worshipful Masters " thrill him by their suggestion 
of romance, while at the same time they increase 
enormously his sense of his own importance. I have 
no knowledge of the inner mysteries of modern 
Orangeism, though I understand they are a debased 
variant of Freemasonry ; but in the evidence of the 
Rev. Holt Waring before the House of Lords Com- 
mittee in 1825 there is an interesting description of 
the original signs and passwords. 

This clergyman, who had joined the Orange Society 
in 1798, stated that the scheme and system first 
instituted was based on the flight of the Children of 
Israel from Egypt. " In order that they should know 
each other for their future protection," he told the 
Committee, " they instituted a sort of catechism, 
question and answer, signs for use when they met. 
The first was a question — ' Whence came you ? ' 
' From the House of Bondage.' ' Whither do you go ? ' 
' To the Promised Land.' ' How do you expect to get 
there ? ' ' By the benefit of a password.' ' Have you 
that password ? ' 'I have.' ' Will you give it to 
me ? ' 'I will divide it with a brother.' The password 
was M-i-g-i-d-o-1, being the name of a town at which 
the Israelites first encamped. . . . There was always 
a secret sign or password, a sort of countersign. In 
that the words were ' The great I AM had sent me 
unto you.' " 

It is curious to contrast this with a supposed 


Whiteboy catechism of the same date, which the 
History of Orangeism sternly denounces as gibberish 
covering deep revolutionary designs — " What are 
you ? " "I am a man." " How can you prove 
yourself to be a man ? " " By being born a true 
member of the Church of Christ, which is the greatest 
River you ever met with." " Were you baptised V* 
" Yes." " What name did you get ? " " Truth and 
Liberty." " How long are you from the centre of 
Ireland ? " "It lies in the centre of my heart." 
" Have you any proof of that ? " " Yes, God prosper 
the true United Boys." " What are you up to ? " 
" To the rights of my country." " Who keeps your 
rights from you ? " " My former brothers." " What 
arms of protection do you carry ? " "I carry the 
Cross as a gift from God under my heart." " What 
is your age ? " " My age is my name, and my name 
is my number." " What is your number ? " " B." 
" What is your countersign ? " " Eliphantis notes 
elisen Montigua.'' " What is that in English ? " 
" Death to a Traitor or a Traitor to Death." " Where 
do you keep vour secrets ? " " In a bone box in my 
left side." '' How high are you ? " " Three steps 
from Paradise." " You are going on one side of your 
shoes ? " " It is no matter to you whether I stand 
upright." " Do you stand so ? " " No." " Why so ? " 
" There is a heavy yoke over us since the battle of 
the Boyne." 

Most people, I imagine, will say without the 
slightest hesitation that instead of being characteristic 
of races alien in blood, religion, and tradition, the 
documents reflect exactly the same type of mind, 
though of the two the Whiteboy catechism alone 
shows a touch of poetic imagination. 

Orangeism, powerfully as it has affected the Ulster 
mind, so far makes but a poor show in literature. It 
can claim a few vigorous ballads, such as " The 


Maiden City " and " Oliver's Advice," which Gavan 
Duffy thought sufficiently good to be included in his 
anthology, The Spirit of the Nation, In the main, 
however. Orange verses, as printed in orthodox song- 
books, make little appeal to the imagination. They 
are written either in diluted Macaulayese or in the 
stilted style of the eighteenth century, of which this 
quatrain is a good example : — 

" To Nassau's lov'd shade in Elysium of late 
Some sons of lerne were heard to complain ; 
Now virtue is driven from her favourite seat, 
And lo3^alty groans on the blood-sprinkled 

But side by side with these a folk-tradition has 
grown up which gives more interesting results. Just 
as General Booth did not see why the devil should 
have all the good tunes, so the Unionists didn't believe 
in the Nationalists having all the good songs, and 
Orange rhymers adopted the methods of their political 
opponents to their own ends. Many of these efforts 
liave been handed down orally, others circulate in 
penny broadsheets, which are still in great demand in 
Ulster. Some years ago no Orange demonstration 
was complete without a ballad-singer, whose melodies 
were usually more to the liking of the crowxl than the 
speeches of the orators. Nowadays the ballad-singer 
is not seen as often as he used to be ; but a Belfast 
printer continues to issue these sheets wholesale, and 
apparently finds them a good investment. Their 
" grey paper and blunt type " recall the French novel 
of Browning's Spanish monk ; and in the true broad- 
side fashion each song has its headpiece, the most 
popular being a cut representing King William on his 
white horse. 

It might have been expected that Ulster Scots, as 
their leaders love to call them, would have gone to the 


Border Ballads for literary inspiration. There are, it 
is true, a few pieces obviously modelled on Burns, 
such as " Rise ! ye sons of William," an adaptation 
of " Scots wha hae," and this jolly variant of *' Green 
grow the rushes, O ! " — 

" And did you go to see the show, each rose and 

pink-a-dilly, O ! 
To feast your eyes and view the prize won by the 
. Orange Lily, O ! 

Heigh ho, the Lily, O ! 
The royal, loyal Lily, O ! 

Beneath the sky 

What power can vie 
With Erin's Orange Lily, O !" 

But the curious thing is that the majority of the 
writers follow — unconsciously, one imagines — a de- 
based Gaelic tradition. Take, for instance, " David 
Brown's Farewell to Kilmood Lodge, 541," supposed to 
be written by an Orange emigrant, my copy of which 
has as headpiece a three-masted paddle-wheel steamer. 
I am pretty certain the author knew no Irish, yet his 
rhymes are a clumsy reflection of the assonances 
characteristic of Gaelic verse. One stanza will serve as 
an illustration, and it is interesting also for its list of 
popular Orange airs : — 

" Our master there he fills the Chair, his rules and 

laws we will obey. 
As our flags we hoist, the ' Protestant Boys ' is the 

favoured tune we still do play ; 
' The Highland Lad,' ' Tartan Plaid,' ' Kick the Pope,' 

and ' Who's Afraid ? ' 
' The Orange and Blue,' ' Boyne Water ' too, and that 

favourite tune called ' Lisnagade.' " 



What is described as " the old and popular ballad 
entitled 'Annie Moore'" is in a more florid style. It 
is a lament for " a proper, tall young girl," killed in 
a Belfast riot on " the 12th day of July in the year of 
'45." As the song puts it : — 

" A ball it entered in her breast and pierced her body 

through ; 
She gently fell and waved her hand, she could not bid 

As I held her milk-white hand in mine, my breast 

being filled with woe. 
To see those lips I oftimes kissed now whiter than 

the snow. 

Annie Moore was my love's name, of credit and renown, 
She was the flower of this country and the. rose of 

Belfast town. 
The Protestant cause she dearly loved — ^William's 

sons she did adore. 
And round her neck, even to the last, she an Orange 

ribbon wore." 

Of all the laments the quaintest is " The Murder of 
M'Briars." I have met sceptics — not Ulster folk — 
who argued the piece must be a parody, but it is really 
a genuine expression of Orange emotion. After a 
characteristic invocation — " Come all ye sons of 
William, whose principles are pure " (" Come all ye" — 
the singer's opening to gather an audience — is now a 
descriptive label for Irish street ballads) — we are 
given in the right heroic style a picture of the tragic 
hero : — 

" He was a master of our band, of honour and great 

He was master of an Orange Lodge, M'Briars was his 

name ; 


By Popish schemes he has been brought to an un- 
timely grave, 

When no kind Protestant was near his precious hfe 
to save. 

The whiskey it was in his head, no harm was in his 

He happened for to tell too loud what way his heart 

inclined ; 
And for the same three villains swore, and kept their 

promise good. 
To wash their hands before they'd sleep that night in 

Orange blood." 

But " Orange blood," as another verse shows, has 
peculiarities all its own : — 

" The rain that night in torrents fell, but oh ! it fell 

in vain, 
For the blood of that poor innocent next morning did 

It was not black like rebel blood, it was both clear 

and bright, 
Which showed M^Briars did belong unto the Cause 

that's right." 

There is no half-heartedness in driving home the 
moral : — 

" Now to conclude and finish, I'll end as I begun — 
Be on your guard both day and night, and murdering 

Papists shun ; 
They never would consent for to meet us man to man, 
But as they served M'Briars they would serve each 



That is quite an ordinary conclusion, though some- 
times, as in " Dolly's Brae," the benighted Catholic 
is given a chance : — 

" Come all ye blind-led Papists, wherever that ye be ! 
Never bow down to priest or pope, for them God will 

disown ; 
Never bow down to images, or God you'll not adore. 
Come join our Orange heroes and cry ' Dolly's Brae 

The necessities of rhyme have rather muddled the 
sense, but it is clear enough what the author is aiming 
at, and one has little doubt he stood astonished at 
his own magnanimity. 

The best that can be said of these ballads is that 
the newest of them is at least seventy years old, and 
though the younger generation of Orangemen sings 
them, it does not take them as seriously as its pre- 
decessors. It is curious that while Sir Edward Carson's 
Ulster Campaign failed to produce a single verse that 
struck the popular imagination, every Dublin urchin 
to-day is singing " Easter Week " and " The Soldier's 



IV. — The Carson Movement. 


I HAVE no intention of describing in detail the rise and 
progress of the Carson movement in Ulster. Such 
an enterprise would demand not a chapter but a 
volume, and a volume in which it would be necessary 
to trace at length the ramifications of English policy in 
Ireland, not merely from the introduction of the 
third Home Rule Bill, but from the passing of the 
Act of Union. The main outlines of the campaign 
are sufficiently well known to render superfluous an 
elaborate analysis of the successive steps by which a 
peaceful province, long before the war-cloud blackened 
the European sky, transformed itself into a gigantic 
armed camp. 

Unlike other rebels against authority, the Ulster 
leaders did not hide their light under a bushel ; the 
fountain pens of the special correspondents were in 
their eyes an asset as valuable as the bayonets of the 
Ulster Volunteers. In the spring of 1914 a more for- 
midable corps of picked journalists had concentrated 
in Belfast than took the field with the belligerent 
armies a few months later. Lord Northcliffe led 
in person a cohort of ready-writers, and with 
a Napoleonic instinct for providing against all con- 
tingencies sent his yacht into Ulster waters so that 
she might be available for carrying despatches in 
case the cables were cut. One met at the Unionist 


Headquarters Germans insatiable for information 
about the military training of Ulster's army, French- 
men floundering hopelessly in the morasses of Ulster 
theological controversies, Americans revelling in a 
real old-world " stunt " which appeared to them to 
be as remote from twentieth century concerns as the 
Wars of the Roses. To me the most appealing figure 
was a Ukrainian enthusiast who had been induced 
to leave the British Museum, where he was gathering 
details for a treatise on the oppressed races of Europe, 
to investigate Ulster for himself. His introductions 
were all to Nationalists and Radicals, and for days he 
went about pathetically compl<^.ining that he could 
find no Unionists in Belfast. 

From the newspaper point of view, however, there 
was no stint of good copy, and the journalists made 
the most of their chances. War and the preparations 
for war were at the time still happily a novelty ; and 
tens of thousands of men, destined to die in battles 
as compared with which the worst that could have 
happened in Ulster would have been, in the military 
phrase, no more than " a certain liveliness," thrilled 
each morning over descriptions of these dour and 
determined Northerns who had so boldly dropped 
their ledgers for drill-books and beaten their plough- 
shares into swords. Newspapers devoted endless 
columns to reports of speeches and demonstrations ; 
war correspondents described the parades of the 
Ulster Volunteers with a wealth of detail hitherto 
reserved for the manoeuvres of European armies ; 
political experts scanned the pronouncements of the 
Provisional Government more anxiously than they 
would have done a rescript by the Tsar or the German 
Emperor. The world learned at interminable length 
what Ulster was doing, but it was by no means so easy 
to discover why Ulster did it, or what in the long run 
it all implied. 


In those days the popular explanation to friend 
and foe alike was Sir Edward Carson. To the eyes 
of both sides he bestrode the province like a 
Colossus, hailed by his admirers as a superman, who 
by stamping his foot could call armies into being, 
denounced by his opponents as if he were Machiavelli 
and Bismarck rolled into one. It was taken for 
granted that not only had Sir Edward Carson 
fashioned out of the population of a few Irish counties 
a political instrument of the most amazing kind, but 
that he created the driving force which rendered it 
formidable. This view seems to me to do less than 
justice to Sir Edward Carson's skill and insight as a 
party leader. His real achievement was not the 
discovery that Ulster would fight. From the Union 
onwards Ulster has been protesting her readiness to 
fight, and English Tories have no less loudly pro- 
claimed in chorus that Ulster would be right. The 
Orange lodges, from which Sir Edward Carson re- 
cruited his Volunteers, have always acted as the 
cannon-fodder of the anti-democratic forces when any 
new extension of popular rights had to be challenged. 
As I have shown, they were mobilised against the 
Reform movement of the 'thirties ; against the 
democratic impulses that began to stir a generation 
later, and in Ireland took shape in the Church Dises- 
tablishment Act and the first tentative efforts to deal 
with the land system ; and in the 'eighties they were 
hallooed on more furiously than ever to destroy the 
Land League and the Home Rule movement in the 
hope of defeating in England the doctrine of 
" ransom " which, in spite of Mr. Chamberlain's 
recantation, survived to haunt Toryism like a night- 

It was the experience of every Ulster leader that 
while he was permitted to bear the burden and heat 
of the struggle, his English allies, having reaped the 


maximuin of profit from his exertions, invariably left 
him in the lurch. Sir Edward Carson's superiority lay 
in the fact that, imlike his predecessors, he entertained 
no illusions as to the willingness of English politicians 
to make sacrifices for the beaux yeux of Ulster. Their 
object, with which he thoroughly agreed, was to 
cripple democracy, and they valued Ulster only as an 
effective instrument. While Sir Edward Carson 
was quite prepared to employ his forces as " shock 
troops," he was resolved that at the critical moment 
of the assault the heavy artillery of Toryism should 
not break off the action and leave him unsupported. 
It was his cue in his public utterances to represent 
himself as Gideon mustering his little band against 
the overwhelming hosts of Midian ; and I have seen 
on the platform tears trickle down his cheeks as he 
described the perils of the forlorn hope which he had 
pledged himself to lead. The emotion may have been 
perfectly sincere, yet Napoleon himself had not a 
higher appreciation of the value of big battalions, 
or took more pains to ensure that he should have 
formidable reserves behind him when the battle was 
joined in earnest. 

Though Sir Edward Carson talked daggers he used 
none till he had obtained, as he told the House of 
Commons, " the open declaration of our leaders, of the 
leader of the Opposition and of the ex-leader of the 
Opposition, that we have behind us in that armed 
resistance, under present and existing circumstances, 
the whole force of the whole Conservative and 
Unionist Party." Secondly, and even more important, 
he was determined to hold his hand until he was 
assured that the enforcement of Home Rule would 
mean a mutiny in the higher ranks of the army. 
These were the guarantees flourished incessantly by 
Sir Edward Carson before his followers to convince 
them that rebellion, so far from being a hazardous enter- 


prise, was really no more than a game which for Ulster 
was all prizes and no blanks. In this the Ulster leader 
from a tactical, if not from an ethical, point of view was 
thoroughly justified, and, personally, I do not quarrel 
with him for striking death-defying attitudes, while 
all the time he was aware that the batteries against 
which he was preparing to hurl himself had been 
spiked by their gunners. Even the makers of 
a sham rebellion should not be denied an impressive 

It is obvious now to everyone that if Sir Edward 
Carson had been relying only on Ulster the Ulster 
problem would never have absorbed the attention of 
the chancelleries of Europe. Just as Parnell harnessed 
Home Rule to the Land Question, so Sir Edward 
Carson linked opposition to Irish self-government 
with the general campaign against democracy. We 
are all democrats to-day, but five short years ago 
democracy instead of being a valuable weapon against 
the Hun was a fearsome apparition which prevented 
good Tories from sleeping peacefully in their beds. 
Not least of Sir Edward Carson's virtues in the 
eyes of such Tories was the fact that, unlike certain 
of their leaders, he refused to have either truck or 
traffic with the accursed thing. Others might deem it 
prudent to compromise on the question of Workmen's 
Compensation, or hedge about Old Age Pensions ; the 
Ulster champion would no more temporise with these 
infamies than an early Christian would deny his faith 
by burning a pinch of incense before the statue of the 

When, in the fullness of time. Sir Edward Carson set 
up his Provisional Government he took advantage 
of the opportunity to demonstrate to the world his 
opinion of the principle of popular representation. 
In the Protestant counties of Ulster his adherents 
controlled the machinery of local government, and 


nothing would have been simpler than to order 
county and district councils, boards of guardians and 
harbour authorities to nominate delegates to a 
Constituent Assembly. Sir Edward Carson charac- 
teristically resolved to begin as he hoped to end. By a 
stroke of the pen he transformed the Ulster Unionist 
Council, the central organisation of the Unionist Asso- 
ciations, into a state-making body, which promptly 
resigned all power to a Commission of five of its 
members who were authorised, in consultation with 
Sir Edward Carson, to frame and submit a constitu- 
tion for the Provisional Government. Little more was 
heard of the labours of the Commission till September, 
1913, when the Ulster Unionist Council proclaimed 
itself to be the Central Authority of the new Govern- 
ment, appointed its standing Committee of seventy- 
six as the Executive, and proceeded to set up a baker's 
dozen of departments, from a Military Board to a 
Publication and Literary Committee, which were 
manned by members of the Executive. The functions 
of these departments were not disclosed, and the 
only connection between them appeared to be that 
in every case Sir Edward Carson held office as Chair- 
man. The model was precisely that of Dublin Castle, 
where a Chief Secretary exercises despotic powers over 
multitudinous boards, all working in separate com- 
partments without regard either to the economy of 
force or the prevention of wasteful friction. For 
generations Dublin Castle has been the classical 
example of autocracy masking itself behind a thread- 
bare pretence of constitutional forms. Sir Edward 
Carson's scheme differed only in that the pretence of 
constitutionalism was dropped, and the autocracy 
openly proclaimed. He could say with Louis XIV., 
U^tat, c^est moi ; and had the Provisional Govern- 
ment taken practical shape his veto would have been 
final on every action of his subjects, from the 


purchase of a postage stamp to the payment of 
customs duties. 

It may be argued that in organising a rebellion 
dictatorial powers are essential, and that once the 
Ulster Government ceased to be " Provisional " its 
basis would have been radically changed. Conceivably 
this might have happened, yet I find it difficult to 
believe that the exclusion from its ranks of all save 
persons of the propertied classes was merely a co- 
incidence. Sir Edward Carson selected his agents as 
if Labour were of no more account than in the days 
before the first Reform Bill ; to judge by the com- 
position of his revolutionary committees, Ulster, to 
his mind, was destined to be saved by her peers, 
parsons, and plutocrats. The challenge to theories 
of popular government was no less ostentatious than 
deliberate. It was the final justification of the move- 
ment in the eyes of its British allies, who held with the 
Times that, " by disciplining the Ulster democracy, 
and by teaching it to look up to them as its natural 
leaders, the clergy and gentry are providing against 
the spread of revolutionary doctrine and free thought." 

Whatever the rank and file of the Covenanters may 
have thought, their leaders did not believe that the 
threat of an armed rising would extinguish Irish 
Nationalism. Their blow was aimed at British 
Liberalism in the hope that by terrorising it they 
would ruin its prestige in England and at the same 
time destroy the Irish Parliamentary Party, whose 
policy was based on the assumption, endorsed up till 
then by all responsible English politicians, that to 
obtain the support of a majority of the electors of 
Great Britain was to ensure the triumph of Home 
Rule. It was calculated that while Ireland would not 
abandon her demand for self-government the whole 
basis of the agitation would be changed, and the 
solidarity of Nationalism shattered beyond hope of 


redemption. With Ireland divided into warring 
factions, and British Liberalism hopelessly discredited, 
the anti-democratic party would have the cards in 
their own hands. The event surpassed their expecta- 
tions. Liberalism, so far from offering opposition, 
seemed anxious to knot the rope about its own neck. 
It met open defiance with the mildest of mild remon- 
strances ; and by its deliberate failure to assert its 
authority appeared to be bent on proving the con- 
tention of its enemies that democracy was synonymous 
not with the reign of law, but with the abrogation of 
all law in favour of universal anarchy. 

The first and most disastrous surrender, which 
established a fatal precedent, was the fiasco of the 
Churchill meeting. The Ulster Liberal Association, 
a body composed almost exclusively of Protestant 
Home Rulers, invited in February, 1912, Mr. Winston 
Churchill, at that time First Lord of the Admiralty, 
to address a public meeting in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. 
A ukase was promptly issued by the Unionist Council 
proclaiming the meeting, and Sir Edv/ard Carson, in 
endorsing the prohibition, declared that Mr. Churchill, 
in proposing to make a political speech to Ulster 
Liberals, was guilty of "a more criminal act than has 
ever been prosecuted in any criminal court." Five 
years previously a similar situation had arisen in 
connection with a meeting organised by the same 
body in the same hall, which was addressed by Mr. 
Lloyd George. On that occasion Mr. William Moore 
(then Unionist member for North Armagh, now one of 
his Majesty's Judges) had called on the Orangemen 
to prevent such an insult to their sacred soil. The 
authorities met the threat by turning out the police. 
Mr. Moore, instead of leading his hosts to the assault, 
incontinently left the city, and Mr. Lloyd George 
delivered his speech without a single interruption. In 
the case of Mr. Churchill the police looked stolidly on 


while the Hall was seized a couple of days before the 
meeting by bands of Orangemen who announced their 
intention of holding it against all comers. Dublin 
Castle bowed meekly to the threat. Mr. Churchill was 
compelled to make his speech in a football field in the 
Nationalist quarter ; and by way of locking the stable- 
door after the steed had been stolen, the Government 
marched in a brigade of infantry to see fair play. 

Had the authorities deliberately set themselves to 
play the Unionist game they could not have bettered 
this programme. Three weeks earlier the decision to 
move in troops would have caused the Unionist 
Council to beat a retreat from a position which, its 
members admitted in private, they could not possibly 
maintain if the Government were determined to 
uphold the right of free speech. Sir Edward Carson 
no more desired a collision than did Lord Aberdeen 
and Mr. Birrell. The essence of his plan was to win 
support for his movement in the ranks of the army ; 
and he knew that to begin by shooting or even stoning 
soldiers on the streets of Belfast would be fatal to his 
hopes. When the gathering in the Ulster Hall was 
abandoned, the military concentration to protect a 
meeting which Sir Edward Carson had graciously 
decided should not be attacked, was to his followers 
simply a final proof of his power. Recruiting for the 
Ulster Volunteers, which had hitherto gone forward 
slowly, received a tremendous impetus, and within a 
few weeks the Unionist Council was able to announce 
that over 100,000 men had been enrolled. 

Unlike Garibaldi, who offered his adherents 
" neither pay, nor quarters, nor provisions ; but 
hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death," 
the Ulster leader preached rebellion without risk and 
armed conspiracy as no more dangerous than a 
parlour game. In an entertaining pamphlet entitled 
A Handbook for Rebels, composed of extracts from 


the speeches of the Ulster leaders, the editor, 
Mr. Thomas Johnson, contents himself with a single 
sentence of comment — " There is not," he says, 
" throughout the long story of this armed challenge 
to constituted authority in Ulster a single execution, 
imprisonment, deportation, prosecution, or even a 
police baton charge ! "* I do not deny that there were 
thousands of Covenanters who would wilhngly have 
run the risk of all these things, but undoubtedly the 
conviction sedulously fostered amongst the rank and 
file was that they had only to flourish their arms and 
beat their drums to ensure the collapse of the walls 
of the Liberal Jericho. A personal incident will 
illustrate the spirit that animated not a few. A certain 
Belfast business man, who was regarded as something 
of a Gallio in politics, appeared one day, to the 
amazement of his friends, in the khaki of the Ulster 
Volunteers. His wife thus explained the transforma- 
tion to her neighbours — " Of course he's not very 
keen on politics, but I thought it would be nice to 
have the rifle and bandolier as mementoes for the 
children when they grow up." To levy war against 
the King in order to provide ornaments for a suburban 
villa would certainly have been regarded as " very 
Irish " had it happened in any other part of the 
country except " dour Ulster." 

Like a prudent general. Sir Edward Carson set him- 
self not only to beat up enthusiasm amongst his 

* A Handbook for Rebels and a companion volume The 
Grammar of Anarchy, though passed by Censor, are now 
banned by Dublin Castle from circulating in Ireland. The 
men who made the speeches are, for the most part, either in 
high judicial offices or members of the Treasury Bench, but 
their deliverances are officially denounced as incitements to 
treason. Surely the climax of absurdity is reached when the 
Lord Chancellor of Ireland, as a member of the Irish Execu- 
tive, solemnly labels his own speeches seditious literature. 


followers, but to sow confusion in the ranks of his 
opponents. With the armed forces of the Crown on 
his side victory was certain. Should he succeed in 
dividing or even neutralising them, he reckoned that 
a Government which permitted such a situation to 
arise might be trusted to lack the courage to grapple 
with it effectively. It was soon evident there was no 
reason to fear that the Government would take action. 
Tory peers and Tory journalists were permitted 
openly to advocate the resignation of all Unionists 
from the Territorial Army. The editor of the Observer 
declared in November, 1913, " the whole of the 
Unionist influence throughout the country ought to 
be used to prevent recruits from joining as long as 
there is the slightest threat of coercing Ulster." A 
couple of months later the Duke of Bedford cal- 
culated that, at the outside, a force of only 15,000 
regular troops could be mobilised against Ulster, and 
he viewed with almost cheerful complacency the 
prospect of their smashing defeat. The British 
Covenant, signed by men like Lord Roberts, Lord 
Milner, and Admiral Seymour, set forth as its main 
object " to prevent the armed forces of the Crown 
being used to deprive the people of Ulster of their 
rights as citizens of the United Kingdom." 

The campaign was not confined to the platform and 
the Press. Officers and men were deluged with per- 
sonal letters appealing to them to resign if the Home 
Rule Bill became law, or at any rate to make it clear 
that they would refuse to act against the Ulster 
Unionists. Apostles of the new creed were eloquent in 
every messroom preaching mutiny as no longer a 
crime but the noblest of virtues. Society dames 
became expert casuists in cases of conscience, and 
bevies of pretty Ulster women, known as '* Carson 
girls," haunted training camps and depots, winning 
by their blandishments not a few who had remained 


deaf to the arguments of male crusaders. No attempt 
was made to conceal the plot. On the contrary, its 
authors craved the widest publicity, believing that 
this would intensify the social pressure, which they 
rightly regarded as their greatest asset, and at the 
same time demonstrate to those who had hitherto 
held aloof that they were missing their chance of 
ranging themselves on the winning side. Retired 
Generals and Admirals rallied to the Ulster standard ; 
it was bruited about that Lord Roberts himself had 
selected the commander of the Ulster Volunteers. 
It was not mere back-benchers, but Opposition leaders 
who argued in the Commons that officers on active 
service should forswear their allegiance, and invented 
theories to prove that treason was the truest loyalty. 
According to Mr. Bonar Law, the situation was the 
same as that which arose when the standing army 
of James II. refused to fight, and went over en masse 
to William of Orange. Mr. Balfour protested it was 
" not undermining the discipline of the Army " to tell 
soldiers that Home Rule was an issue upon which 
they were not bound to obey orders to enforce the 
law of the land. Well might Mr. Asquith say in his 
speech at Ladybank in 1912, " this new dogma, 
countersigned as it now is by all the leading men of 
the Tory party, will be invoked, and rightly invoked, 
cited, and rightly cited, called in aid, and rightly 
called in aid, whenever the spirit of lawlessness, fed 
and fostered by a sense whether of real or imaginary 
injustice, takes body and shape, and claims to stop the 
ordered machinery of self-governing society." 

Unfortunately for his reputation as a statesman, 
the Prime Minister was content with analysis instead 
of action. Dialectically his indictment was unanswer- 
able, but it never seems to have occurred to him that 
something more was required than abstract exposi- 
tions of political philosophy. Mr. J. M Hobson 


points out in his pamphlet Traffic in Treason that the 
Cabinet which ran away from the threats of Sir 
Edward Carson and the Ulster Volunteers was prompt 
enough to arrest labour leaders who preached the 
same doctrine of " optional obedience " to soldiers in 
the case of strike disputes. " In order that treason be 
successful," Mr. Hobson pertinently asks, " may it 
be necessary that there should be enrolled in its 
cause peers of the realm, men holding the King's 
Commission, Privy Councillors, King's Counsel, and 
other persons of consequence ? " 

Even before the outrageous defiance of the Curragh 
Mutiny Mr. Winston Churchill declared his eagerness 
" to put these grave matters to the proof " ; and 
when hard on the heels of that outbreak came the 
Larne gun-running, Mr. Asquith boldly announced, 
" the Government will take without delay appropriate 
steps to vindicate the authority of the law." Yet 
in the end it was Mr. Asquith's War Minister 
who had to be flung overboard while General 
Gough retained his post. The Ulster leader and 
his British backers, so far from finding themselves 
in the dock, were selected as his colleagues in the 
struggle " to make the world safe for democracy " 
by a statesman who, speaking, as he said, " with the 
utmost deliberation and with the fullest conviction," 
declared of their Ulster crusade that " a more deadly 
blow has never been dealt in our time by any body of 
responsible politicians at the very foundations on 
which democratic government rests." Even Sir 
Edward Carson can have had no idea when he girded 
up his loins to destroy Liberalism that the high priests 
of the creed would so obligingly aid him in pulling 
down the pillars of their temple. 



Equally amazing was the discovery by the Party 
which for generations had made law and order a 
fetish in Ireland that Irish political leaders must 
stand or fall by their readiness to lead their followers 
in armed insurrection. Nationalists, who pointed to a 
majority in the Commons and the constituencies, were 
taunted with obscuring the issue by shallow sophistries ; 
the only arguments that counted were the bullets 
and bayonets of the Ulster Volunteers. On this point 
I quote the declarations not of frantic fire-eaters like 
Lord Willoughby de Broke and Major Pretj^man 
Newman, but what are presumably the well-considered 
words of an able writer who, though a Tory, re- 
pudiates the label of " a good party man." In his 
sketch of Sir Edward Carson in that brilHant volume. 
Persons and Politics of the Transition, Mr. A. A. 
Baumann writes — " There are only two conditions 
which a minority must fulfil to secure the right of 
rebellion : they must be ready to risk their lives, and 
they must be able to put a disciplined force in the 
field of sufficient numbers to justify the deed. The 
difference between a riot and a rebellion is one of 
numbers and discipline — a historical truism, but 
apparently to-day a recondite truth. . . . Can Mr. 
Redmond put a disciplined army in the field in 
sufficient numbers to make a fight for Irish inde- 
pendence ? . . . Everybody knows that he cannot. 
Parnell could not do it thirty years ago before the 
Land Acts were passed. With a genius for command 
and a courage far surpassing the measure of Mr. 
Redmond, Parnell never rose above the level of a 


Camorra chief. Where Parnell failed Mr. Redmond 
is not hkely to succeed. Mr. Redmond could not put 
the semblance of a rebel army in the field, for the 
excellent reason that since the passing of the Land 
Act the Irish farmers and peasantry are, most of them, 
contented with their material, if not their political, 
condition. They vote, of course, for Nationalist 
members of Parliament because they are told to do 
so by their priests and politicians, and perhaps 
because they have a hazy idea that there are still 
some slices to be cut from the British joint. But Home 
Rule is purely the policy of the Machine, which in 
Ireland is run by the priests and politicians. The 
Irish nation, a pastoral people, would no more take 
up arms for Home Rule than volunteer for service 
under Huerta. ... If the Home Rule Bill should 
be withdrawn, or rejected, or postponed to a new 
Parliament, except a few bonfires and perhaps a 
street scuffle or two in Belfast, I do not believe a 
ripple would disturb the surface of Irish life. The 
majority of the Irish agricultural classes are too com- 
fortable, and they have paid too many instalments 
under the Land Acts." It is sufficient, I imagine, to 
point out that the book in which these remarks 
appear was first published in 1916, the year of the 
Easter Rebellion ! 

I admit it is possible, though scarcely probable, 
that even a publicist like Mr. Baumann might 
be ignorant of the notorious fact that for the 
best part of a century Irish leaders have fought their 
stiff est battles against the advocates of the appeal to 
physical force. Mr. Redmond was the first political 
chief who could safely afford to disregard the ex- 
tremists on his own side who pinned their faith to the 
doctrine of an armed rising, and it was surely a 
masterpiece of tragic irony that belief in this weapon 
should have been restored not by Irish " rebels," but 


by English " loyalists." Whatever Tories like Mr. 
Baumann may have thought, Sir Edward Carson at 
least knew the truth. Yet, knowing it, he not merely 
proceeded on his path, but held out an encouraging 
hand to Nationalist imitators. At a meeting of 
Primrose Dames, barely two months before the 
outbreak of war, the Ulster leader said : "I am not 
sorry for the armed drilling of those who are opposed to 
me in Ireland. I certainly have no right to complain 
of it ; I started that with my own friends. I was told 
at the time that I was looking for revolution two and 
a half or three years ahead. I was very glad, I did not 
mind that." Sir Edward Carson did not explain to 
his hearers the cause of his gladness. One wonders 
why ! Can it be that having obtained pledges that 
the army would not act against his Volunteers, he 
foresaw that Nationalists, who had not taken this 
precaution, must sooner or later come into conflict 
with the armed forces of the Crown, with results 
disastrous not only to individuals but to the whole 
movement for Irish legislative freedom ? I hesitate to 
think that a responsible politician would be knowingly 
guilty of such an infamy ; yet this is what actually 
happened, and Sir Edward Carson, with his experience 
of Ireland, North and South, must have been aware 
that the probability was that it would happen. 

A week before Great Britain declared war against 
the Central Powers, the East Belfast Regiment 
of the Ulster Volunteers marched through the 
streets of Belfast carrying in triumph the Mauser 
rifles imported from Germany, and dragging 
behind them three machine-guns. Constabulary 
kept the way clear ; the soldiers of the garrison 
watched the procession as interested spectators. 
On the following day Nationalist Volunteers, 
who had landed a cargo of arms at Howth, were 
stopped near Dublin by a body of troops and ordered 


to surrender their rifles. As the soldiers were re- 
turning to barracks they came into coUision with a 
crowd, on whom they fired, kilhng and wounding 
many persons. This episode was to the vast majority 
of Nationahsts the real explanation of why Sir Edward 
Carson rejoiced at the drilling of his political 
opponents. They did not blame him, however, half 
as much as they did the British Government for 
playing into his hand. It was essential to Ulster 
Unionists to destroy at all hazards the party in 
Ireland which preached that self-government could be 
won by a policy of reason and argument, for the 
whole Carsonite position rests on the assumption that 
the Irish demand, so far from embodying a legitimate 
aspiration, is the expression of a blind unreasoning 
hatred. Historical antagonisms serve in a large 
measure to explain, if not to excuse, the survival of 
this view in Ulster, but British statesmen ought to 
have known better. Their repudiation of Consti- 
tutional Nationalism was not only an act of treachery 
to Ireland, it was a betrayal of the whole democratic 
ideal, for which England has since been compelled 
to pay a heavy price. 

During the war the Carson precedent became the 
charter of every minority which refused to be bound 
by the will of the majority; shipyard workers, miners, 
and railway men in turn demonstrated conclusively 
to politicians like Mr. Bonar Law and Lord Milner 
that, as Mr. Asquith warned them six years ago, " the 
possession of a conscience and a repugnance to obey 
inconvenient or objectionable laws are not the 
monopoly of the Protestants of the north-east of 
Ireland." In Ireland still more disastrous results 
have ensued. There, the effect has been to discredit 
not only the professions of individual Ministers, but 
to destroy belief in the pledged faith of the English 
people. Their word was final, yet, having registered 


their verdict, they acquiesced in its withdrawal in 
face of a threat. Up till then Irishmen had made a 
distinction between the general body of Englishmen 
and their rulers, and were willing to believe that the 
good wishes of the masses were rendered of no avail 
by the operation of sinister forces in Whitehall and 
Dublin Castle, the nature "of which had only to be 
made clear to the ordinary voter to ensure their 
speedy extinction. Carsonism, far from working 
under the cover of darkness, blazoned its methods to 
the world, but the Government instead of meeting 
the challenge surrendered at discretion, and Mr. 
Asquith's supporters in Great Britain took no steps 
to repudiate the surrender. 

Is it amazing, under the circumstances, that opinion 
in Ireland, having discovered that English democracy 
was either unable or unwilling to force its rulers to 
act in accordance with their pledges, should regard it 
no longer as a potential ally but as an open opponent ? 
In his recently published life of Bismarck Mr. C. 
Grant Robinson says, " A nation with responsible 
parliamentary government is not the victim but the 
author of its government's blunders ; and if it seeks 
to transfer the responsibility to politicians and a party 
system, or some other scapegoat, it is guilty of the 
lie in the soul." There have been many specious 
explanations of the record growth of Sinn Fein, and 
all kinds of political physicians have been prescribing 
antidotes. The vast majority of these would-be 
healers make the mistake of assuming that a remedy 
must be sought only on Irish soil, whereas the truth 
is the conviction that the British people in their 
attitude to the Irish demand for self-government 
have been " guilty of the lie in the soul," is to be 
found at the root of the worst of existing discontents. 

Endowed with an unfortunate bias in favour of 
realism and logic, the Irish are less scornful of open 


enemies than of half-hearted friends who, as some- 
body has said, " control a gigantic world-shaping 
machine with a mental equipment that might govern 
a spade or a spindle." They resent being told that 
they are incomprehensible, and their problems in- 
soluble, by people who fail to see that the incompre- 
hensible thing about Irish affairs since the Union is 
that the issues instead of being dealt with on their 
merits have in every case been subordinated to the 
party interests of English politicians. The Carson 
crusade is simply the final example of the attempt to 
win a triumph for the forces of reaction by exploiting 
anti-Irish prejudices ; and the refusal^of the average 
Liberal to discern the truth, or discerning it to take 
effective action, has been, and while it lasts will 
continue to be, the strongest weapon in the armoury 
of the propagandists of Sinn Fein. 

Commentators on the Ulster question have for the 
most part failed to emphasise — what seems to me to 
be a fact of vital importance — that during the pro- 
gress of the Home Rule controversy the Unionist 
case has been twisted right round. In its early stages 
Sir Edward Carson was making the sort of speeches 
that Fitzgibbon and Castlereagh would have ap- 
plauded to the echo ; before the end his denial of 
the right of British statesmen to intervene in Ulster 
was uncompromising and passionate enough to have 
satisfied Wolfe Tone himself. The change of attitude 
was, I admit, largely unconscious, but this so far from 
minimising its significance accentuates it by its 
revelation of a woeful lack of coherent logic and clear 
thinking about fundamental issues. The Ulster- 
man sees himself, and insists vehemently on others 
seeing him, as a plain blunt man who likes fair-dealing 
and hates manoeuvres, and who may be trusted, 
whether he is right or wrong, to drive straight forward 
through all obstacles to his goal. In politics, however, 


his weakness is to assume that because he is convinced 
his ends are right, he is at Hberty to justify them by 
arguments that are mutually destructive, and secure 
them by every means legal or illegal. His original 
contention against Home Rule was based on a 
repudiation of the principle of nationality as cutting 
at the root of imperial progress. In a phrase often 
in the mouth of his spokesmen, " a great Empire and 
little minds go ill together " ; and he not only de- 
nounced his opponents for their treasonable aims, 
but despised them for the folly that made them willing, 
as he put it, to swap the overlordship of the Seven 
Seas for the c(introl of a potato patch. Nationalism, 
it was proclaimed, w^as hopelessly out of tune with 
the spirit of the times, this spirit finding its true ex- 
pression in the brassy rhetoric of Mr. Chamberlain's 
Imperialism, and in the equally strident glorifications 
by the Henley-Kipling school oi versifiers of " The 
Race " and '' The Blood " and " The White Man's 
Burden." According to this vision of Empire, the 
Ulstermen were the true prophets of the faith, a 
ruling race divinely appointed to mete out justice 
to '' the lesser breeds without the law," and act for 
Britain as " the keepers of the door." 

They know better than England herself what Eng- 
land ought to want ; and, to quote the words of one 
of their champions in an article glorifying the Carson 
campaign, " the Ulster garrison is still, and will ever 
be, sturdy enough to slam Great Britain's back-door 
against all comers, be they English or Irish, traitors or 
aliens." By the way, this apologia, which appeared 
in the Nineteenth Century for May, 1918, is a staggering 
example of what passes North of the Boyne for well- 
balanced political argument. The author opens with 
the following quotation from John Stuart Mill : — 
" Even supposing that a Government is entirely at 
one with the people and does not attempt to exercise 


any power of coercion unless in agreement with what 
it conceives to be their voice, still I deny the right of 
the people to exercise coercion. Their power is 
illegitimate. . . . The best Government has no more 
title to it than the worst." The closing words are : — 
" ' What ye would that men should do to you, do 
ye also imto them.' Pay careful heed, for in these 
words lies the secret of all liberty, and justice, and 
good statesmanship." Yet the case the writer sets out 
to establish is that Ulster's mission is to discipline 
Ireland in the interests of England ; and that even 
if England bids her stay her hand, so deep is her 
devotion to duty, she will defy the Empire for the 
Empire's good. It is illegitimate for Great Britain to 
coerce Ulster, but it is her duty to coerce Ireland ; 
and " the secret of all liberty, and justice, and good 
statesmanship " lies in denying to Nationalists as a 
favour what Unionists are entitled to claim as a right. 
This is less Machiavellianism, as some people will 
insist, than muddle-headedness, the inevitable con- 
sequence of a creed of racial superiority, whether 
that creed be preached by Unionists in Ireland or 
Prussians in Poland and Alsace. 

Ulster calls herself the " Imperial Province " be- 
cause, she assumes, Empire implies the sort of 
ascendancy she wishes to maintain, under which a 
minority, claiming to act as a "garrison," can summon 
all the resources of the confederacy to aid it in im- 
posing its will on the majority. The bitterest discovery 
of recent years has been that the British Empire, as 
distinct from the British Government, upholds the 
principle of majority rule in Ireland, and instead of 
viewing Nationalism as a corroding poison sees in it 
the cement that binds the Commonwealth. Professor 
George M. Wrong, the well-known Canadian historian, 
has during the war analysed the growth of nationalism 
in the British Empire, and arrived at the conclusion 


that it " both makes the self-governing States of the 
Empire different from each other and also holds them 
together." In words that to the Carsonite will seem 
flat blasphemy, Professor Wrong rules the Unionist 
fetish of " loyalty " out of court. '' The thoughtful 
Australian or Canadian," he states, " will deny 
that he owes any loyalty to the British Isles. He feels 
this no more than the Englishman feels loyalty to 
Canada. Each of them is satisfied to be loyal to 
himself." Bad as this is, there is worse to come. 
Professor Wrong esteems the virtue of race as 
little as the abstract sentiment of loyalty 
to England. " A racial nationalism," he says, in 
words that might have been penned as a counterblast 
to Sir Edward Carson's most cherished theories, 
" involves either isolation or the supremacy of a 
dominant race in a mixed State. It tends to run to 
pride and arrogance, to thoughts like those of the 
Hebrew that his race is the chosen of God. When the 
British Empire was younger we used to hear a good 
deal about the triumphant destiny of the Anglo-Saxon 
race. But of late years this note has rarely been 
heard, and instead we hear something at once more 
tangible and more vital. At one time we seemed to 
seek uniformity, partly, perhaps, because we assumed 
unity of race. It was held that political wisdom 
required in Canada and Australia an exact copy of 
Britain. . . . We know now, and we are proud, that 
no one part of the British Empire can be quite like 
any other part. When we ask why, the answer is that 
this is the fruit of Liberty. Nature herself is in- 
finitely varied, and when men are free, when they 
adjust themselves to the varieties of Nature, they 
involve differences. To-day no wise statesman has 
any thought of trying to anglicise the British Empire." 
But the Unionist indictment of Ireland is that she 
declines to be anglicised ; and the differences, which 


Professor Wrong regards as a proof of vitality, figure 
in speeches from Ulster platforms as the final justifica- 
tion of the denial of self-government. 

The Times, on the publication of Professor Wrong's 
paper, hastened to endorse his conclusion that — " It 
is partnership in common liberties which unites people 
. . . We dismiss the phantom of race, and put in its 
place, as the basis of political organisation, the solid 
reality of education as that on which the best life of 
the nations must be established — education in judg- 
ment, responsibility and self-control. The growth of 
the new nationalism in the British Empire is just the 
growth of Liberty'." The English people, the Times 
insisted, must realise " first of all that nationalism 
involves difference, and that difference is not neces- 
sarily, or even presumably, a mischief." But the 
Times was from first to last the strenuous backer of 
Sir Edward Carson in his contention that the differ- 
ences between England and Ireland were and are 
sufficient reason for refusing Ireland the Liberty 
which, in Professor Wrong's opinion, is the true 
" wonder-worker," and without which unity of 
sentiment can never be attained. 

Charges of inconsistency weigh as little with the 
Ulster leader as with the Times. Having for years 
denounced nationalism as the bane of the Common- 
wealth, no sooner did he realise that Home Rule, in 
some form or other, was inevitable than he sought to 
turn the guns of his opponents against themselves 
by setting up in opposition to their claims a demand for 
the treatment of Ulster as a separate national entity. 
There was humour in the spectacle of the most vigorous 
performer on the Imperial drum sounding resonant 
fanfares on the Sinn Fein trumpet ; but there was 
tragedy also, and for Irishmen the tragedy had a very 
bitter flavour. Notoriously, the plan was inspired not 
by a sincere conviction, but by purely tactical con- 


sideratioDS, as is made plain by the fact that the 
Covenanters, while insisting that Ulster has the same 
rights against Ireland that Ireland claims against 
Great Britain, continue to urge the English Govern- 
ment to snap its fingers at the appeal to national 
aspirations, and stifle arguments by the arbitrament 
of force. Carsonites not only wish to have their cake 
and eat it too ; they are determined, if they can 
prevent it, that no one else will be permitted to 
eat cake at all. Though their blow was nominally 
aimed at the Nationalists, its effect was to undermine 
the whole Unionist position, which, in theory at least, 
was based on the assumption that the opposition to 
Home Rule sprang not from a selfish wish to serve 
the ends of a creed or a party, but from an honest 
desire to further the best interests of Ireland. The 
Covenanters now openly proclaim a narrower paro- 
chialism than that which they denounced in Sinn 
Fein ; and to assert it are prepared not only to resist 
the authority of Parliament, but to fling overboard 
their " brethren " in the South and West, whose 
supposed sufferings under Nationalist persecution 
have been the theme of Sir Edward Carson's fiercest 

Outside the Balkan States, I imagine, it would be 
difficult to find a more cynical application of the 
principles of Realpolitik ; and the amazing thing is 
that British statesmen, who from their moral pedestals 
pointed scornful fingers at Ferdinand of Bulgaria, should 
have both initiated and countenanced manoeuvres 
in Belfast that even in Sofia would not have been 
openly avowed by their authors. I shall be told, of 
course, that English politicians did not create the 
Ulster spirit, and cannot be held responsible for all 
its manifestations. If they did not create it — Ulster 
history contains strong evidence to prove that they 
did — it cannot be denied that in later years they have 


fed and fostered it by every means in their power. 
So far from being a wilful paradox, it is the sober 
truth that the perpetuation of Irish differences is 
due less to the racial and religious antagonisms which 
our rulers affect to deplore than to the exploitation 
of these antagonisms for the purposes of English 
party politics. Lecky, in a famous image, described 
the English Pale as a spear-point that was kept 
turning in an open wound. What the Pale was in 
Tudor times the English party system is to-day. 
Ireland has never entertained any illusion as to the 
manner in which that system reacts against her in- 
terests. A generation ago Parnell told the Govern- 
ment of the day that a dictatorship on Cromwellian 
lines would give better results from every point of 
view than reliance on methods under which proposals 
vitally affecting the welfare of the Irish people are of 
importance only for their bearing on the strategical 
manoeuvres of Whigs and Tories. The answer to 
Parnell, and to the protests equally strong made by 
his successors, was that they might as well rail against 
the law of gravity as against the party system. 
Ireland was as free as England to manipulate it in 
her own favour, and once this was accomplished her 
triumph was secure. After decades of uphill effort 
Ireland at last achieved what friends and foes alike 
had declared to be an impossibility, only to discover 
that the rules, which had been sacrosanct while they 
operated against her, no longer applied. The whole 
fabric collapsed at a blast on the Tory bugle-horn ; 
and Liberals hastened to acquiesce in a betrayal that 
meant their own extinction as a political force rather 
than face the risks of asserting the fundamental 
principles of popular government in Ireland. 



Future historians will see a masterpiece of irony in* 
the fact that German autocrats chose to issue their 
challenge to democracy at the exact moment when 
British politicians were tearing their Constitution in 
tatters to show their contempt for democratic theories. 
Never in modern times has there been a more extra- 
ordinary transformation. Men to whom Nationalist 
principles had been anathema all their lives, and 
subject races a pestilent nuisance, clasped Serbia to 
their hearts, and were willing to die that Jugo-Slavs 
and Czecho-Slovaks might be free. What had been 
treason when Irishmen asked for it, and, as events 
were to show, continued to be treason so far as they 
were concerned, became a God-given right the denial 
of which put the rulers and the people of the Central 
Powers outside the pale. The shock was, naturally, 
felt most acutely in Ulster, for Germany's challenge 
to Europe was precisely Ulster's challenge to Ireland. 
As Mr. Robert Lynd put it, and the remark is as true 
as it is pungent, had Sir Edward Carson been the 
Kaiser and the Kaiser been Sir Edward Carson the 
history of the last ten years would not have differed 
one iota. No one who mixed with Covenanters during 
the anti-Home Rule agitation will question the 
assertion that Germany shone in their eyes as a radiant 
example of all that Great Britain should be, but 
unfortunately was not. The appeal to her practice 
ran like a leit-motif through their speeches ; and her 
belief in " resolute government " as the right medicine 
for small nationalities was trumpeted as a final proof 
of the superiority of her Imperialism over the decadent 
Liberalism that had corrupted English life. 


I do not believe that the average Carsonite, eagerly 
as he clutched at the Mausers which Germany so 
obligingly placed at his disposal, ever contemplated 
the possibility of changing his status to that of a 
subject of the Kaiser. It is, I know, quite easy to 
rake together declarations by parsons and deputy 
lieutenants in which the All Highest is seen figuring 
as the Deliverer of Ulster, a twentieth century 
Protestant Hero, miraculously raised up to preserve 
and extend the work of his namesake, William of 
Orange. But while Ulster " loyalists " should not be 
permitted to escape the consequences of these utter- 
ances, those who magnify them into serious proof of a 
deep-laid plot in the interests of Pan-Germanism are 
simply enabling the Covenanters to evade the real 
charge against them. They have no qualms of con- 
science about the Hamburg rifles ; while Germany 
undoubtedly permitted these to be shipped to serve 
her own ends, the Ulster Volunteers insist that they 
accepted them to execute a policy with which Ger- 
many had nothing to do. With equal fervour they 
repudiate responsibility for creating a situation which 
encouraged the Kaiser to declare war. Despite the 
denials of Sir Edward Carson, it is notorious that 
Kuehlmann visited Ulster while the issue of civil war 
hung in the balance ; and if the leaders of the Volun- 
teers had no official knowledge of his presence, un- 
officially the news was circulated far and wide as a 
proof that Ulster's determination to resist had 
become a factor in international politics. I am ready 
to'°'admit that Kuehlmann may have been fishingtin 
troubled waters purely on his own account ; and that 
whatever possibilities he discerned of making a 
rich profit for Germany he was careful to give the 
Covenanters no inkling of them. At the same time 
it is difficult to regard it as a mere coincidence that 
from the Agadir episode onwards every crisis in 


foreign affairs was accompanied by a stiffening of the 
Ulster demand. Sir Edward Carson knew the Euro- 
pean situation if the bulk of his followers did not, and 
his insistence on his pound of flesh, though it may be 
a tribute to his powers as a master of statecraft, 
reveals in a curious light his professions of devoted 
loyalty to the Empire. He exploited England's pre- 
war complications with Germany as ruthlessly as the 
Sinn Feiners sought to exploit the complications 
arising out of the war ; and whereas Sinn Fein at 
least fought in the open, the Ulster campaign was 
developed by the methods of political blackmail. 

Of course Sir Edward Carson did not desire to 
precipitate war ; nobody ever desires that. He, and 
the ex-Cabinet Ministers with whom he was allied, 
merely decided that in view of the German menace, 
of which they tell us they were fully aware, the 
organisation of an armed conspiracy, combined with 
the destruction of the spirit of discipline in the army, 
would compel the Liberal Government to submit to 
their demands, unless its members were prepared to 
be ground to powder between the upper millstone of 
Tory Ascendancy and the nether of Prussian Mili- 
tarism. It is worthy of note that while enforcing 
settlements in the railway and coal strikes by the argu- 
ment that the continuance of the disputes would 
intensify the difficulties of the international situation, 
the Cabinet, as Mrs. Green says in her striking 
pamphlet Ourselves Alone in Ulster, " eschewed 
controversy with Imperialists of the North-East 
Ulster quality." So far from the movement being 
challenged as a national danger, its authors, in 
such time as they had to spare from preaching mutiny 
to the army and organising rebellion in Ulster, 
lectured strikers on the infamy of squabbling over 
wages while Germany was arming, and raged against 
Ministers for meekly cowering imder the threat of the 
Kaiser's mailed fist. 


Casuists indeed are trying to demonstrate that it 
was really Sir Edward Carson and not General Foch 
who destroyed the German chances of victory. " Irish 
Unionist," writing in the Morning Post (19th Oct., 
1918), meets the charge of Mr. H. G. Wells that Ger- 
many relied mainly on " Sir Edward Carson, General 
Gough, and the guns she had furnished for the Ulster 
revolt, to keep us out of the struggle," by asserting 
that Lord Roberts looked favourably on the Ulster 
Volunteers because he saw in them a " useful auxiliary 
to the Regular Army " in case of a war with Germany. 
According to " Irish Unionist," the German menace 
" was better realised in Ulster than elsewhere," and 
the Ulster Volunteers were the answer to it. So we 
have it laid down that the best way to prepare for 
war abroad is to organise rebellion at home. A still 
more astounding argument was recently used by a 
correspondent of a Belfast Carsonite paper, who 
relates an incident of her own experience in territory 
occupied by the Germans, which, she says, " may 
help to dispel the idea that Ulster precipitated 
the war." The incident happened, according to 
" Lady Voter," as she signs herself, '' in the 
course of a little catechism by a most courteous 
Prussian ' Kommandantur,' who asked my nation- 
ality. Having previously heard reference to the 
people of this island as a whole in terms of con- 
tempt and derision such as ' Irish pigs,' it suddenly 
struck me to reply ' Ulster.' To my surprise it was 
taken quite solemnly, and then came the query — 
' Carson Party ? ' which was answered with an 
unhesitating ' Yes ! ' To the great diversion of others 
as well as myself, small favours were directed my way 
afterwards that were not offered at all to those who 
had announced themselves ' Irish.' Germany knew 
all about this country, and respected Sir Edward 
Carson and his followers, whom the powers that were 


regarded as Imperialists — the ' Irish ' were the rebels." 
" Lady Voter's " ease is that Sir Edward Carson 
acted the pro-German part so well that he deceived 
the Germans themselves, and thus compassed their 
ruin. One would like to hear Sir Edward Carson's 
comments were Sinn Feiners to use a similar argu- 
ment ! 

Even all that has happened since August, 1914, has 
not opened the eyes of the champions of Unionist 
Ulster to the truth about their position. To many of 
them the declaration of war came as a positive anti- 
climax ; and it was with something like disgust they 
realised that, having set the stage for Armageddon 
on the Lagan and the Foyle, the real Armageddon was 
to be decided on the banks of the Marne and the 
Somme. Not a few of them indeed still cherish the 
hope that Sir Edward Carson will once again establish 
his headquarters at Craigavon ringed about by the 
bayonets of his faithful Volunteers ; and that the 
remnant of the Ulster Division will joyfully apply at 
home the lessons they learned in France by con- 
structing a Siegfried Line across the Gap of the North. 
As one of their poets has sung : — 

" Ulster will strike for England, 
And England will not forget ; " 

and what England must not forget is that Ulster's 
price for helping " to make the world safe for demo- 
cracy " is the perpetuation of a system which, even 
its defenders are constrained to admit, is the antithesis 
of democratic rule. 

On the moral issue, Ulster from the first has been a 
millstone hung about the neck not only of Great 
Britain but of her Allies. No question has been 
raised about subject races, from the democratisation 
of Bohemia to the rights of Esthonians to self-deter- 
mination, for which the rulers of the Central Powers 


could not find a precedent to justify their policy in the 
history of modern Ireland. These thrusts, which 
English statesmen, to the open dismay of their Allies, 
were wholly unable to parry, fail to stagger in the 
slightest the enormous self-complacency of Ulster. 
She denounces impartially Germans and Irish, 
Americans, and even British, for drawing parallels to 
which she objects. And, characteristically, her 
spokesmen imagine that their objection to these 
parallels is sufficient proof that they are invalid. 
They poured scorn on the hypocrisy of the Kaiser 
when he posed as a believer in the principle of self- 
determination, and hastened to confront him with 
the concrete cases of Alsace and West Prussia. When 
in turn they are confronted with the concrete case of 
Ireland, it is discovered that, like the Kaiser, they 
are firm believers in the doctrine that political charity 
begins anywhere except at home. 

Before the war Ulster not only set Germany upon 
a pedestal as an example to Great Britain of pro- 
gressive Imperialism, but sought anxiously to prove 
that the Germanic virtues, as she regarded them, 
were her own inheritance by right of blood. In the 
days when Sir Edward Carson, recognising that the 
claim of Ulster as " the faithful garrison " was out 
of tune with twentieth century ideas, was setting 
himself to establish the " two nations " theory which 
is now his stand-by, a Presbyterian professor of 
divinity caused a great flutter in Belfast by a lecture 
in which he demonstrated, with a tremendous parade 
of that pseudo-science so dear to professors of divinity, 
that the Home Rule struggle was simply a conflict 
between the virtues of Teutonic Ulster and the defects, 
if not the actual vices, of Celtic Ireland. The ex- 
planation was hailed on all sides as a heaven-sent 
revelation. I have heard it quoted by a score of 
orators as a final argument ; and on the occasion of 


the first great parade of the Ulster Volunteers a 
Belfast paper declared, " One could not help being 
impressed by the determined Teutonic type of 
features of the men as compared with the weaker 
physiognomy of the Latin races." I do not know 
whether it would be possible to lecture nowadays in 
Belfast on Ulster's debt to the Teuton, but I am cer- 
tain one might more safely beard a lion in his den 
than compliment a soldier of the Ulster Division on 
possessing features of a Teutonic cast. 

Nevertheless a resemblance does exist between the 
Ulsterman and a certain type of German, though it 
is possible to explain it as a result of the operation of 
social and political forces without indulging in 
grotesque ethnological fantasies. In her pleasantly- 
written volume, Our Allies and Enemies in the Near 
East, Miss Jean Bates devotes a chapter to the Saxons 
of Transylvania, which might, with a few minor 
changes, have been written as a description of the 
Ulster Settlers. These Saxons came to Transylvania 
not long before the Normans invaded Ireland ; and 
their contempt for the races amongst whom they 
dwell has increased instead of diminishing in the 
interval. They entertain a boundless scorn for the 
" dirty Wallachs " and the " thriftless Roumanians " ; 
and when reminded by strangers that they are living 
in the twentieth century not in the Dark Ages, reply, 
according to Miss Bates, " What do they know of the 
dangers which beset us godly Saxons who dwell in the 
midst of perils, and have only the right arm of our 
good Herr Gott to lean upon ? " The amiable Slav 
may salute the Saxon in the name of " Christ the 
Risen," but the Saxon as a good Lutheran " hunches 
his shoulders, and praises his ' Herr Gott ' that he is 
not an idolater as is his would-be friendly, if alien, 
neighbour." For centuries the Transylvanian Saxons 
" have cultivated a surly and mistrustful demeanour 


as a safeguard against the wiles of the wicked ; " and 
their greatest joy in hfe is to Hsten to interminable 
discourses by their pastors on the text, " Come ye 
out from among them, and touch not the accursed 
thing," in which the defects of the Slav, Roumanian, 
and Magyar serve to reveal in new brightness the 
shining virtues of Germanic blood. 

Miss Bates describes a Saxon festival which, in 
spirit at least, bears an uncanny resemblance to the 
Orange celebrations of North-East Ulster. " The 
noise of doleful singing can be heard in the distance, 
and a procession heaves in sight led by an old man 
attired in a long dark woollen garment and carrying 
a drum on which he beats a tattoo. Following after 
him come the members of the Egerburg Bruederschaft 
who also wear sombre-hued monkish vestments and 
bear large staves in their hands. They are chanting 
the last verse of an ancient Lutheran psalm, and on 
their arrival at the restaurant the proprietor sallies 
out to welcome them. ' Good-day, good people. 
From whence do ye come ? Are you weary ? And for 
what purpose have you worn out your shoes ? ' 
Whereupon the old man with the drum answers : 
' We have journeyed as did our fathers from our 
Fatherland of Germany into this country of godless 
barbarians. We are free people, the noblest of people, 
and we came here of our own accord, with staff in 
hand, to turn the heathen from wickedness and to 
work the will of God. We be Germans as were our 
fathers, and God is with us wherever we go.' " — 
" So do the Saxons," Miss Bates adds, " keep the racial 
gulf open which for eight hundred years has yawned 
between them and the real children of the countries 
of South-Eastern Europe." The astounding thing is 
that no one is more outraged by the spectacle of 
Transylvanian ascendancy than Sir Edward Carson ! 
In an introduction which he contributes to Miss Bates's 


book, he goes out of his way to express the pious hope 
that the privations of war may have " chastened the 
arrogant egotism by which the stupid Saxon colony 
in Transylvania proves the persistence of racial type." 
This is surely an extraordinary sentence to be penned 
by a man who has made the " arrogant egotism " of 
Ulster the basis of his political creed ; and the failure 
of its author to see that he condemns in the Saxon 
settlers the qualities he lauds in the Ulster Planters 
is typical of the movement he leads. 

The Irish Unionist has managed to convince him- 
self that the problem with which he is concerned is 
unique in political history, and therefore conclusions 
and analogies drawn from other countries can have no 
possible bearing on it. He grinds his teeth at the 
thought of Baltic Barons lording it over Letts and 
Esthonians, and every Orange Lodge was willing to 
fight to the last cartridge in order to break the 
domination of Protestant German over Catholic Pole. 
Yet he is honestly unable to realise that minority rule 
in Ireland is no less intolerable than minority rule in 
Poland, even if it could be justified, as it cannot, by 
the plea that its continuance serves the interests of 
the British Empire. Of late the Covenanter has made 
it painfully clear to his former admirers that he is an 
Imperialist only so long as Imperialism is, from his 
point of view, a paying speculation. When it demands 
sacrifices instead of conferring privileges the Ulster- 
man may still mumble " loyal " catchwords, but in 
practice his attitude cannot be distinguished from 
that of the abhorred Sinn Feiner. 

Statesman after statesman has declared that 
a settlement of the Irish question on the basis 
of self-government is a vital and urgent necessity. 
Ulster resolutely blocks the way towards such a 
settlement. Sir Edward Carson, for example, 
denounces as high treason the Sinn Fein appeal 


to the principle of self-determination, yet he 
invokes it as fervently as Mr. De Valera himself not 
merely as a counterblast to Nationalism, but as a 
weapon with which to bring Great Britain to her knees. 
Throughout the war he was busy translating into 
deeds the words of his lieutenant, Mr. James Cham- 
bers, afterwards Attorney- General in the first Coalition 
Government, who, speaking in Belfast in May, 1913, 
declared " they owed to England allegiance, loyalty, 
gratitude ; but if England cast them off then he 
reserved his right as a betrayed man to say ' I shall 
act as I have a right to act. I shall sing no longer 
' God Save the King.' "... It is true Sir Edward 
Carson picks his phrases more carefully than Mr. 
Chambers did, but in practice he exploits with a 
thoroughness and deftness all his own the principle 
that " England's difficulty is Ulster's opportunity." 
Nationalists do not blame him for this. On the 
contrary, they hold it goes far to prove their case 
that under the existing system of government a real 
bond of union between the people of the two islands 
is an impossibility. 

Ulster, for all her protestations of loyalty, is no 
more willing to recognise England's right to enforce a 
settlement to which she objects than is Leinster or 
Connacht. The refusal of either of the contending 
parties to accept the verdict of this tribunal, unless 
it happens to be in their favour, creates, according 
to British ideas, a hopeless impasse. As the Irish, it 
is argued, are so unreasonable that a section will 
always oppose any solution that may be attempted, 
the only practicable course is to continue a system, 
the defects of which are a by-word throughout the 
world. This is not only the theory of the Tories, but 
the practice of the Liberals. After the Easter Rising, 
Mr. Asquith, as a result of his investigations in 
Dublin, announced that Castle Government had hope- 


lessly broken down. Everywhere, except in Ireland, 
it was assumed that this discovery heralded the intro- 
duction of drastic reforms. Ministers, however, after 
a half-hearted attempt at reconstruction, found it 
simpler to sit precariously enthroned on the bayonets 
of the army of occupation ; and the resentment which 
such a negation of statesmanship inevitably provokes, 
so far from being regarded as a just retribution for 
British bad faith, has been triumphantly exhibited to 
the world as a damning proof of Nationalist hostility 
to the cause of freedom. 

The truth is that British politicians by their 
partisanship in the past have forfeited any claim they 
may have possessed to act as judges in an Irish dis- 
pute. Their intervention serves no other purpose 
than to intensify difficulties and multiply obstacles, 
a fact which, if it was ever in doubt, has been con- 
clusively established by the record of events since 
the outbreak of the war. Ireland asked, and asks, no 
more than freedom to apply on her own soil the 
principles for which she was summoned to fight on 
European battlefields. This permission England 
steadily refuses ; and the members of three suc- 
cessive Cabinets have exhausted their ingenuity in 
attempting to explain away the refusal by excuses, 
which they denounce on the lips of German 
statesmen as hypocritical pretences. Mr. Balfour 
sees no bar to a settlement of Bohemia and 
Posen on the basis of majority rule, though in one 
area the German minority amounts to a third of the 
population, and in the other the races are nearly 
equally divided. Mr. Lloyd George definitely de- 
clares that in East Africa the Askaris will not be 
permitted to claim special consideration as a dominant 
militarist minority, but must subordinate themselves 
to the will of the majority. Yet with an incon- 
sistency that would be farcical if the results were less 


tragic, the British Government confer on Ulster a 
veto which enables her to defy the will of the English 
as well as the Irish people. 

This may be in the eyes of Ministers one of 
the needs of the situation, but if it is, it ought 
to be frankly avowed. It is gross political dishonesty 
to pretend, as is now pretended, that the Conven- 
tion failed to obtain a settlement because Irishmen 
were unable to agree amongst themselves. Noto- 
riously the real obstacle was not Irish factionism, 
but the assurance given to the Ulster delegates that 
the Cabinet would decline to adopt any scheme which 
did not meet with their approval. As Sir Edward 
Carson's demand is for the maintenance of the existing 
system — in his favourite formula " we want only to 
be let alone " — his delegates were able by the simple 
process of objecting to every constructive proposal 
to prevent a settlement. Nationalists were not blind 
to the fact that the War Cabinet's insistence on 
" substantial agreement," coupled with the refusal 
to define what the phrase implied, deprived the Con- 
vention of any real claim to be regarded as a genuine 
instrument of self-determination. Though they sus- 
pected it would be used as a '' peace-trap," they did 
not reject it on this account. Their acceptance was 
denounced by the Republicans as a surrender, if not 
a betrayal, of the national claim, but Constitution- 
alists could give sound reasons for the course they 
adopted. In proposing a Convention English Ministers 
admitted for the first time that the settlement of Irish 
differences was a question for Irishmen themselves ; 
and Nationalists who had already gone to extreme 
limits to conciliate Ulster were satisfied that the con- 
cessions they were prepared to offer would prove to 
the world, if not to Sir Edward Carson, that there was 
no reasonable foundation for the fears which his 
followers professed to entertain. 


Whatever else the Convention failed to do, it 
succeeded in disposing of the argument that any- 
serious grounds exist for believing that Home Rule 
means Rome Rule. The Southern Unionists, who, 
if religious intolerance were a danger, would have 
much more to fear than the compact Protestant 
majority of the North-eastern counties, were content 
with the safeguards which the Nationalists were 
willing to grant. Even the Ulstermen did not deny 
the efficacy of these safeguards.* As Sir Horace 
Plunkett put it in the letter to the British Prime 
Minister which prefaced his report, they claimed that 
" if Ireland had the right to separate herself from the 
rest of the United Kingdom, they had the same right 
to separation from the rest of Ireland." This claim 
is a denial of the right of Great Britain no less than of 
Ireland to impose terms on Ulster, though with a 
heroic contempt for logic the Carsonites produce as 
proof of their power of veto the pledges of English 
Ministers. If the Convention failed to achieve 
''[substantial agreement '* the fault was due less to the 
inability of Irish parties to evolve a compromise than 
to the action of English politicians in laying down 
conditions and reservations which made a compro- 
mise impossible. No man excels Mr. Lloyd George in 

* It is now, curiously enough, the Ulster Covenanters who 
object to safeguards for minorities. Sir Edward Carson and 
liis colleagues are opposed tooth and nail to proportional repre- 
sentation in local government elections, and denounce as 
" traitors to Ulster '' Southern Unionists, who are hailing the 
scheme as a new charter of liberty. The explanation of the 
apparent paradox is extremely simple. Proportional representa- 
tion threatens to shatter the Ulster bloc by giving Northern 
Nationalists their fair share of political power, and breaking 
the prohibition which denies to Labour its place in the sun. 
It seems quite logical to the good Carsonite that he should 
be free to exercise uncontrolled majority powers at the same 
time as he claims unlimited minority privileges. 


the difficult art of running with the hare and hunting 
with the hounds, and never has he practised it more 
dihgently than in his handhng of Irish affairs. Un- 
fortunately for his reputation, the Convention, 
which was to be the final proof of his agility, has served 
merely to demonstrate to the world that if Irish 
parties are agreed in nothing else, they are of one 
mind in their suspicions of the good faith of British 
Ministers and of their qualifications to act as an 
impartial tribunal in Irish disputes. 

It may be galling to Englishmen's pride to admit 
that their intervention in Irish affairs does infinitely 
more harm than good, but it should not be half so 
galling as the spectacle which Ireland presents after 
seven centuries of British rule. T. M. Kettle used to 
insist that " humility was for Englishmen the be- 
ginning of wisdom on the Irish question." If that 
was true seven years ago when Kettle published his 
Open Secret of Home Rule, it is still truer to-day, when 
to the record of English Rule have been added an 
armed conspiracy in Ulster to defy Parliament and 
the Crown, and an open rebellion in Dublin. To 
preach humility, as Kettle was careful to point out, 
is not " to ascribe horns to England and a halo to Ire- 
land." Three quarters of the muddle and tragedy are 
due less to evil designs than to good intentions. The 
average Englishman, as distinct from the little band 
of reactionaries who exploit his weaknesses, really 
believes that the salvation of Ireland rests on his 
shoulders, and that it is the duty of his rulers to 
achieve this salvation even against the wishes of 
Irishmen themselves. In a sense the delusion is not 
unnatural. Irish parties have contributed to it by 
their appeals for support ; and the Englishman is 
scarcely to be blamed if he failed to realise that while 
all sides were prepared to welcome him as an ally 
nobody wanted him as a judge. 


The Carson crusade dealt the final blow to such 
rags and tatters of prestige as England could 
claim in Ireland. Nationalists had accepted her 
as arbitress not because they acknowledged her right, 
but because Unionists insisted that she must be re- 
garded as the final court of appeal. Ulster's repudia- 
tion of the decision in favour of Home Rule trans- 
formed the whole situation. The repudiation was 
absolute, for Sir Edward Carson and his lieutenants 
made it clear that no appeal to the British electorate, 
if unfavourable to Ulster, would be accepted by their 
followers as binding. This ruled out England as far as 
Ulster was concerned ; and when instead of asserting 
her authority to impose her decision she told Nation- 
alists that her law must give way to Sir Edward Carson's 
will, she ruled herself out in the eyes of Ireland. There 
is still a pathetic delusion amongst the British people 
that Ireland looks to them for a great act of con- 
structive statesmanship. If once upon a time Ireland 
entertained that hope she does so no longer. England 
has failed signally not only as an arbitress but as an 
honest broker ; and the best contribution she can 
hope to make to a solution of the Irish question is to 
allow Irishmen to settle it between themselves. If she 
consents to obseVve neutrality there is little doubt 
that Nationalists will accept the English connection 
as a fundamental condition of Unionist co-operation. 
If, however, she persists in using a minority to thwart 
the legitimate aspirations of a majority, she may 
retain Ulster, but she will do so at the price of dividing 
Irishmen along lines which threaten to make a recon- 
ciliation impossible, and with the knowledge that in 
the future her relations with Ireland will be not a 
domestic issue but a grave and menacing inter- 
national problem. 



Sir Edward Carson's claim for self-determination, 
if it is to square with President Wilson's declarations, 
must be based on the ground that Ulster is a separate 
entity with a distinct nationality of its own. But the 
Ulsterman does not complain that he is classified as 
an Irishman against his will ; on the contrary, his 
boast is that he is the true Irishman and those who 
differ from him base degenerates. One of the minor 
ironies of the situation is that if Sir Edward Carson 
were to carry his point and divide Ireland into 
separate water-tight compartments, his place would be 
not with the Ulster sheep but with the Irish goats. 
The most rabid Orangeman cannot deny that, apart 
from his political opinions. Sir Edward Carson is in 
his eyes as fearful a wild fowl as Mr. De Valera ; 
whereas Mr. Devlin, though he may be the leader of 
the Northern Nationalists, is by every other test as 
typical an Ulsterman as has ever played a part in 
public life. Mr. Devlin holds different views from the 
majority of his fellow-citizens, but I should be greatly 
surprised to learn that he does not agree with them 
in ranking the mud banks of the Lagan higher than 
the glories of the Shannon or the Lee. If he claims 
Ulster for Ireland, he claims also that it is infinitely 
the best part of Ireland, standing on a pinnacle to 
which the other provinces can attain only by slow 
and painful efforts. Sir Edward Carson speaks for 
Ulster powerfully, and often with genuine passion, 
but he remains an outside advocate who has mastered 
a brief ; Mr. Devlin, as his bitterest opponents admit, 
is a member of the family, and a proof in his 


own person of the falsity of the conclusion that if 
Ulster differs from the other provinces the difference 
is purely one of race and religion. 

The " two nations " theory is merely a revival of 
the old fallacy of the opposition of Celt and Saxon, 
which, as Lecky proved a generation ago, bears no 
relation to the facts of the Irish situation. During 
the fight on the Home Rule Bill I had the curiosity 
to compile a list of the speakers who used this argu- 
ment on Ulster platforms. The names themselves are 
the best refutation of the doctrines their bearers 
preached, for they included Maguires, Murphys, 
Quinns,MacNeills, Moriartys, McDonnells and O'Neills. 
Deplorable as " the blind hysterics of the Celt " may 
be, denunciations of the race sound as oddly on the lips 
of these " Macs " and " O's " as would attacks on Ger- 
manism by Hindenburgs and Tirpitzes. The quarrel of 
the Unionist with his Nationalist neighbour is less a 
clash of races than an embittered family feud. Only 
near relatives have the same uncanny knowledge of 
one another's weak points, and the same skill in 
getting their thrusts home between the joints of their 
opponent's armour. There is a story of a Jewish Lord 
Mayor of Belfast who in a time of civil commotion 
tried to make peace between the hostile mobs, and 
was extinguished by a shout from the crowd : " What 
right has a Jew to interfere in a fight between 
Christians ? " Unfortunately up to this outsiders can 
always be counted upon to interfere, and it is this 
knowledge that keeps the parties from arriving at an 
agreement — were it only an agreement to differ. 

Strenuously as Sir Edward Carson demands self- 
determination for his followers in a section of the 
Northern province, he is no more a believer in a 
separate Ulster nationality than Mr. Devlin or Mr. 
De Valera. His anti-Home Rule campaign was 
purely destructive, and during it he was more con- 


cerned to prove that everything the NationaHsts 
wanted was wrong than to put forward constructive 
proposals of his own. When he ceases to shout 
his battle-cry of " We won't have it," and con- 
descends to tell the world what he would do in Ireland 
were he master of her destinies, it turns out that his 
solution is not Unionism but Home Rule. In an article 
in the National News (13th Oct., 1918) Sir Edward 
Carson explained his idea of a settlement, apparently 
without the slightest suspicion that he was repudiating 
the central doctrine of the faith in defence of which 
he organised an armed rebellion. " Finally I am 
asked," he writes, " what would I do assuming that 
I had supreme power to bring about a united, con- 
tented, and prosperous Ireland ? This is a very wide 
question. I think I would try and bring voluntarily 
together under the United Kingdom Government a 
Cabinet in Dublin, consisting of the best and most 
experienced and capable men, to advise the Irish 
Executive on the matter of the economic development 
of Ireland, and to frame schemes for presentation to 
Parliament. If such a beginning was made, men's 
minds would be turned from internal agitation to a 
substantial economic effort, and it might become 
apparent that we really have the one object in view — 
namely, the progress of Ireland." 

This, as Mr. Bernard Shaw pithily remarked, is 
like " demanding an Irish king whilst insisting on an 
English beadle." If Irishmen of all political creeds 
could in consultation devise and draft schemes for the 
economic development of their country, why should 
it be beyond their power to give legislative effect to 
their schemes ? Does Sir Edward Carson seriously 
imply that though Nationalists and Unionists could 
agree about ends only the members of the British 
Parliament have the ability required to realize these in 
practice ? If we are to judge by his critiQisms of the 


policy — and not merely the Irish policy — of Ministries, 
Liberal and Conservative, in which he did not hold 
office, few Sinn Feiners have a lower estimate of the 
genius of the Englishman as legislator. Lord Morley 
acutely says in his Recollections, " No Irish loyalist 
that I ever heard of is willing to admit that England 
can do anything right. She is a special providence 
whose help is due in all things, and every failure is 
laid at her door. Everything wrong is set down by 
loyalists, quite as heartily as by Nationalists, to 'you 
English people.' " Sir Edward Carson's new position 
is that adopted by the Irish aristocrat of the first 
half of the eighteenth century, who was willing in 
return for a guarantee of ascendancy at home to 
submit to an English veto on his legislative measures. 
The Irish Parliament during the reigns of Anne and 
the first Georges was, for all practical purposes, a body 
possessing the same powers as the Cabinet for which 
the Ulster leader sighs. Only by grim experience 
did Irishmen learn that political freedom is a vital 
condition of economic freedom. It was an Ulster 
revolt that broke the evil tradition of subservience ; 
and were Sir Edward Carson to realize his ideal to- 
morrow, within ten years at the outside he would 
either be heading a movement north of the Boyne 
akin to that of Grattan, or his authority would have 
passed to another leader. 

The nearest parallel to the Ulster problem is that 
of the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland in the 
eighteenth century. Skrine, in his Travels in the North 
of England and part of Scotland, describes " the 
marked distinction between the races of the same 
country " as " quite unparalleled in any other 
nation ; " and from his own observations made in 
1787 adds, " neither does it seem to wear off in the 
degree that might be expected in the common pro- 
gress of improvement," In one of his essays in 


Memories and Portraits Robert Louis Stevenson puts 
it more dramatically. " A century and a half ago (he 
writes) the Highlander wore a different costume, 
spoke a different language, worshipped in another 
church, held different morals, and obeyed a different 
social constitution from his fellow-countrymen either 
of the north or south. Even the English, it is recorded, 
did not loathe the Highlander and the Highland 
costume as they were loathed by the remainder of 
the Scotch. Yet the Highlander felt himself a Scot. 
. . . When the Black Watch, after years of foreign 
service, returned to Scotland, veterans leaped out 
and kissed the earth at Portpatrick. They had been 
in Ireland, stationed among men of their own race 
and language, where they were well liked and treated 
with affection ; but it was the soil of Galloway that 
they kissed at the extreme end of the hostile lowlands, 
among a people who did not understand their speech, 
and who hated, harried, and hanged them since the 
dawn of history." Sir Edward Carson would be the 
last to deny that in this sense Ulster is also Irish. He 
knows, and the most bigoted Covenanter would not 
dispute the fact, that were Ulster regiments returning 
from France to land at Sinn Fein Dublin or Rebel 
Cork, though they might not kiss the earth, they 
would feel a thrill of home-coming such as the touch 
of English or Scottish soil could never give. 

As a matter of fact the essential unity of Ulster 
with Ireland, if it is still a paradox to many at home, 
became a magnificent commonplace on the fields of 
Flanders and Picardy. The Ulster Division was 
recruited from the Carson Volunteers in the hope and 
belief that it would afford a living proof of Ulster's 
uncompromising adhesion to the principles of the 
Covenant. Yet in the war zone the first act of the 
Northern battalions was to fraternise with the Irish 
Division recruited from the Redmondite Volunteers. 


Men of Antrim and Down, to whom Catholic Nation- 
alists were in theory much more the enemy than 
Protestant Germans, found to their astonishment 
that they had stronger ties with the Leinsters and 
the Munsters than with English, Scots, or Colonials. 
Victories and defeats in which Orange and Green 
fought side by side have strengthened and deepened 
this sense of fellowship ; and I have heard not one 
but scores of Ulster soldiers, Covenanters to a man, 
declare that with Southern regiments on their flank 
they could go anywhere and do anything. " They're 
the lads," the tale always concludes, " who won't 
leave an Irishman in the lurch, no matter where he 
hangs his hat on Sunday." 

During the sittings of the Irish Convention I 
travelled one day from Belfast to Dublin with one of 
the delegates and three sergeants of the Ulster 
Division who were returning to France. Naturally 
the conversation turned on politics, and all the 
soldiers were strong for a settlement. " If we can get 
on fine in France," said one sergeant, who described 
himself as an Apprentice Boy of Derry, " why can't 
we do the same at home ? " " There's nothing wrong 
with the Fenians " (to the Orangeman all Nation- 
alists are Fenians), was the comment of another ; 
" and if you had some of our boys on the Convention 
they'd soon tell John Redmond and Sir Edward too 
that the quicker they shook hands the better it would 
be for everybody." As they left us at Amiens Street 
their final word to the Convention delegate was : 
" Settle it before we come back. We've had enough 
of fighting Fritz to want to fight Irishmen." It has 
always seemed to me one of the great defects of 
the Convention that the Irish and Ulster Divisions 
were not represented by delegates from the ranks. 
They might not have been trained politicians, but 
their presence would have refuted many of the argu- 


ments used by politicians to show that an impassable 
gulf divides IJlster from Ireland. 

Nationalists who flocked to the colours when 
Germany invaded Belgium held with Tom Kettle 
that to be a good Irishman it was necessary to be a 
good European, but they also felt that their action 
was symbolic of the spirit that would animate the 
Ireland of the future. This was the conviction not 
only of the leaders, but of the rank and file. Quite 
recently I discovered in the columns of an Ulster 
Unionist paper an "in memoriam " notice of a 
Nationalist soldier killed in action in France. As 
usual the formal announcement was followed by a 
verse quotation, but instead of the stale sentiments 
or woeful doggerel that make such columns a happy 
hunting ground for the cynical humorist, a stanza, 
by a fine inspiration, had been chosen from Dr. 
Drennan's elegy on William Orr, the first martyr of 
the United Irish movement : — 

" Why cut olf in palmy youth ? 
Truth he spoke, and acted truth. 
' Countrymen unite ! ' he cried, 
And died, for what the Saviour died ! " 

Orr was an Ulster Presbyterian, hanged in 1797 by 
the British Government ; this was a Catholic Nation- 
alist, who died in an English uniform, yet both gave 
their lives willingly in the belief that their sacrifices 
would prove to be a bond of unity between all Irish- 
men. The baser kind of Unionist ma}^ continue to 
proclaim that such men were conscious hypocrites, 
but I think Sir Edward Carson is generous enough 
to recognise that whether their aims were in his 
sense of the words " loyal " or " disloyal," they were 
at least nobly conceived ; and I am confident that 
Ulster soldiers who fought side by side with the Irish 
Division will want some better proof than the word 


of platform orators that their Nationahst comrades 
challenged Prussianism in the field in order to obtain 
power to impose on Unionist Ireland Prussianism 
in its most detestable form. 

Three-fourths of the antagonism between North 
and South springs from sheer ignorance, and this 
ignorance is not peculiar to either side. Burke, 
discussing the effects of the Penal Laws, says, " Sure 
I am that there have been thousands in Ireland who 
have never conversed with a Roman Catholic in their 
whole lives, unless they happened to talk to their 
gardener's workmen, or to ask their way when they 
had lost it in their sports ; or, at best, who had known 
them only as footmen or other domestics of the 
second or third order. ... I well remember a great 
and in many respects a good man who advertised for 
a blacksmith, but at the same time added ' He must 
be a Protestant.' " Burke's description still holds 
good of Unionist Ulster in the second decade of the 
twentieth century, and the sort of advertisement he 
derided continues to be a stock feature of Irish papers. 

The abnormalities of the economic situation have 
aided and abetted sectarian prejudices in deepening 
these lamentable divisions. Ship-building and the 
linen trade, the twin pillars of industrial Ulster, not 
only find their markets but draw their supplies of raw 
material from outside the island. Thus the problem 
of maintaining the consciousness of interdependence 
between rural and urban communities, which is vital 
in a well-ordered State, would be extraordinarily 
difficult in Ireland under any circumstances ; and 
when political and religious prejudices so operate as 
to intensify economic differences the most buoyant 
optimist may well be tempted to despair. As a 
result of the w^ar it is true there is a prospect of an 
extension of flax-growing in the South and West, 
which would constitute a new bond between the other 


provinces and Ulster ; and the transformation of 
Cork into an industrial and manufacturing centre may 
yet enable it to dispute Belfast's title to speak as the 
one commercial city in Ireland. These forces, however, 
can develop only slowly ; and meanwhile fanatics on 
both banks of the Boyne are doing their best to aggra- 
vate the situation. 

As I have said, the faults are not wholly on the 
side of the North. It may, and does, make a fetish of 
its material prosperity, but that is no reason why 
those who are opposed to its politics should attribute, 
as some of them are inclined to do, all its defects to 
its industrialism. Of late years a vast amount of 
nonsense, and pernicious nonsense too, has been 
talked about the advantages which the peasant enjoys 
over the city worker. The working-class quarters of 
Belfast are mean enough in all conscience, but those 
who denounce them to exalt the transfiguring in- 
fluences of nature on the mind of the countryman 
conveniently forget that the most beautiful districts 
in Ireland from the poet's point of view are, as a 
rule, from the human point of view, appalling agri- 
cultural slums. In this matter facts are of more 
account than theories. And the salient fact is that 
while the back-streets of Belfast are crammed with 
an ever-increasing population, the young generation 
in Connacht only awaits the opportunity to follow 
other generations in a flight into exile. One Belfast 
may be enough in Ireland, as our academic " simple- 
lifers " say — most of them, by the way, are confirmed 
town birds — but it seems a questionable advantage 
to limit industrialism to the north-eastern counties 
if the pick of young Ireland is driven abroad to work 
out its destiny in the blast-furnaces of Pittsburg or 
the coal-mines of the Black Country. I remember 
vividly an encounter with a strenuous Gaelic Leaguer, 
who deplored Belfast's lack of enthusiasm for the 


development of native industries. It took me some 
time to realise that world-famous shipyards, textile 
factories, and tobacco works were to his mind not 
Irish at all, that title being reserved for one-horse 
enterprises which, as often as not, use the catch-cries 
of patriotism to enable them to underpay their workers 
and overcharge their customers. This attitude, I may 
say, is not typical, but undoubtedly it exists, adding 
another to the many stumbling blocks which prevent 
a clear understanding between North and South. 
I am no believer in the Johnsonian doctrine — 
'' How small of all that human hearts endure 
That part which kings and laws can cause or cure." 
Kings and laws have wrought havoc in Ireland, and 
other and different laws are required to repair the evil. 
It is easy, however, to exaggerate unduly the im- 
portance of political reforms, and expect legislative 
changes to do what can be done only by a change of 
heart. In Ireland, unfortunately, the tendency of 
both sides is to ignore this elementary fact. According 
to one school all that is necessary is to maintain the 
Union. The fact that the Union has been maintained 
for over a century, with no other result than to 
intensify existing divisions and enmities, and immo- 
bilise in Ireland a huge army of occupation in the 
most critical hours of a world war, so far from being 
regarded by Unionists as damaging to their cause, is 
hailed by them as the final proof that the system in 
being is a masterpiece of statesmanship. On the other 
hand, one meets Nationalists who have persuaded 
themselves that the mere enforcement of a measure of 
legislative freedom, whether it takes the shape of Home 
Rule, Dominion self-government, or an Independent 
Republic, would straightway remove all differences 
and transform Irishmen into a band of brothers. 

I am profoundly convinced that no more urgent 
necessity exists in the political world than that Ireland 


should be free to decide her own destiny in accordance 
with the principles of self-determination laid down by 
President Wilson. Had Unionism been as efficient as it 
has proved incompetent I should hold that view quite 
as strongly, believing as I do that the sole merit 
of the existing system in the eyes of its champions is 
that it enables an Irish minority by the aid of British 
politicians to override the wishes of an Irish majority. 
I am willing to agree with the most extreme Sinn 
Feiner as to the disastrous effects of English influences 
on Irish affairs. It is a taint which hitherto has proved 
no less dangerous to its friends than to its foes. While 
Nationalists are by its operation denied the exercise of 
those rights which are the axioms of popular govern- 
ment ; Unionists, who justify its continuance, range 
themselves against the central principle of demo- 
cratic rule, and are compelled, unless they wish to 
sacrifice any claims they may have to political con- 
sistency, to take their stand with the forces of reaction 
instead of with those of progress, not merely on the 
question of Irish Government, but on every problem, 
domestic and international. Ulster has sold her men- 
tal freedom for a mess of Ascendancy pottage ; and 
the recovery of that freedom is, or would be — did her 
leaders really aspire to lead — quite as important as 
the maintenance of that prosperity which is her 
constant boast. It was to Ulster and not to Ireland 
that Mr. Yeats should have addressed his famous 
reproach : — 

'' What need you, being come to sense. 
But fumble in a greasy till 
And add the halfpence to the pence 
And prayer to shivering prayer, until 
You have dried the marrow from the bone ; 
For men were born to pray and save. 
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone. 
It's with O'Leary in the grave." 


At the same time Nationalists, who argue that a 
mere legislative change will suffice to effect the radical 
conversion of Ulster, are, it seems to me, in the same 
boat as Carsonites who insist that firm government is 
all that is needed to reconcile Ireland to the Union. 
No doubt were developments permitted to take place 
along normal lines, and were free scope given to the 
forces making for unity, fusion would not be long 
delayed. There are, however, as everybody knows, 
powerful interests which are determined to prevent 
any movement towards reconciliation, realizing that it 
would be fatal to their authority and prestige. Sir 
Edward Carson's new scheme for eliminating Ulster 
from Ireland by enforcing in the six north-eastern 
counties English Acts of Parliament which do not 
apply to the Nationalist provinces, may appear gro- 
tesque and impracticable, but it represents the 
revival in a dangerous and unexpected form of the 
principle of " Divide and Conquer." Sinn Fein's 
central doctrine is that to overthrow English influence 
in Ireland all that is required is to ignore it ; but the 
Covenanters and their allies are quick to see that if 
Nationalists adopt the policy of abstention from 
Westminster, this departure can be used to advance 
the sectional interests of Ulster as against the national 
interests of all Ireland. This danger is neither remote 
nor negligible, but so far little or nothing has been 
done to meet it. The fundamental weakness of Sinn 
Fein is that not only have its leaders failed to evolve 
an Ulster policy, but they act as if such a policy were 
a minor detail as compared with eloquent arguments 
about the rights of small nationalities. Once they 
have settled the main point about England's right of 
intervention, all other difficulties, so they suggest, 
will solve themselves automatically, a contention 
which might carry weight if one could forget that it 
is exactly because Ulster blocks the way that English 
intervention is possible. 


The leaders of Sinn Fein put the cart before the 
horse in dealing with the Carsonites, and, as if this were 
were not bad enough, some of them are deliberately 
goading the horse to kick the cart to pieces. There has 
rarely been a more lamentable utterance than Mr. De 
Valera's declaration in his campaign in South Armagh 
that he was prepared to blast Ulster out of his path ; 
and his threat that the Orangemen would be given 
six months either to accept an Irish Republic or clear 
out of the country bag and baggage was not the less 
exasperating because it was such patently futile 
bombast.* It is true the language was not half as 
strong as that w^hich the Covenanters habitually use 
about Sinn Feiners, but Sir Edward Carson is in a very 
different position from Mr. De Valera. So far from 
expecting or desiring to convert Nationalists to his 
views, his whole plan of campaign is designed to 
stereotype existing animosities. In public he pro- 
fessed to be outraged at the menace to his followers ; 
in private, I am certain, he chuckled to see Sinn Fein 
playing the very cards he wanted. Even yet the 
Republican leaders do not seem to realize that English 
influence in Ireland is not necessarily eradicated by 
transferring the appeal from Westminster. While 
Ulster continues in her present temper she can always 
rely on a large measure of support from the anti-Irish 
faction in Great Britain, and it is nonsense or worse 
to say that her opposition would be a negligible 

* The Republicans, it is satisfactory to find, are beginning 
to discover that the Ulster difficulty requires more careful 
handling than they have hitherto been prepared to give it. 
At the meeting of the Ard-Fheis of Sinn Fein in April a strong 
demand was made by Ulster members for a better-organised 
and more effective propaganda effort in the northern counties. 
No formal scheme was evolved, and no proposals adopted for 
grappling with the question of making converts amongst 
Unionists, but that the existence of the problem should be 
admitted marks a definite step in advance. 


factor. There is no evidence to show that the coercion 
of Belfast from Dubhn would be any easier than the 
coercion of Dublin from London has proved in the 
past ; on the contrary, an Irish Prime Minister, or 
even a President of an Irish Republic, who attempted 
to apply it would speedily discover he had signed his 
own political death warrant. 

Sinn Fein prides itself on the logical stringency of its 
creed, and its adherents have still to learn that logic, 
if a good servant, is in politics a deplorably bad master. 
Uncompromising devotion to principle is an excellent 
thing, provided always that the premises underlying 
the principle are not arbitrary. It is, unfortunately, 
no less dangerous to be too simple than to be too 
subtle ; and extremists who believe, as not a few of 
them do, that the ramifications of the Irish question 
are summed up in the couplet 

" On our side is virtue and Erin, 
On theirs is the Saxon and guilt," 

may win cheers from the crowd, which likes a clear- 
cut issue, but they are going the WTong way to solve 
intricate problems of statesmanship. No doubt it is 
tempting to assume that as Unionist Ulster professes 
to side with England Ireland has only to break the 
English connection, and the Ulster difficulty will 
straightway disappear. Sinn Feiners would do well 
to remember that were this country an independent 
Republic to-morrow the Covenanters would still be 
there, a minority, indeed, but a minority which, if it 
did not accept the new state of affairs, would be 
formidable not only by reason of the strength erf its 
resources, but by reason of the support upon which 
it could rely from powerful influences in Great 

It seems, therefore, obvious to me that while 
England might conceivably be coerced, not perhaps 


by force of arms, but by the exigencies of the inter- 
national situation, into conceding the Sinn Fein 
demand, her surrender would be nullified if Ireland 
failed to win Ulster by reason and argument. No one 
has uttered weightier words on this subject than the 
distinguished essayist, " John Eglinton," who prides 
himself on standing aloof from all political parties. 
He is the champion of the " Modern Irishman," whom 
he defines as " the Irishman who accepts as a good 
European the connection with Great Britain, and 
yet feels himself to be far more distinct from the 
Anglo-Saxon than he is from the " Mere Irishman." 
In a preface which he contributed to a pamphlet by 
Mr. A. R. Orage, "John Eglinton" says, "Admitting 
the existence in Ireland of a national consciousness 
and initiative, which it has been chiefly the part of the 
Catholic Church to conserve, much remains to be 
done before the descendants of the Anglo-Irish and 
Scotch-Irish populations, firmly established here by 
the grace of God, can listen with becoming silence, 
much less with vehement acclamation, to the gran- 
diloquent claim of the old mother-nation to be a 
Republic or a Sovereign State. They have to be 
brought into it, and they are, after all, over a million 
of imperfectly convinced Protestant Irishmen in 
Ireland's little population of four millions and not, 
if it may be believed, without a patriotism of their 
own. The Sinn Feiners, in short, if they really are the 
other three millions, will have to take a different tone 
with them from that which they adopt, if they wish 
to avoid trouble with them, and impregnate them 
with the national idea." 

Imperative as I believe a root-and-branch reforma- 
tion of the existing system of government to be, I am 
convinced that the most difficult problem Ireland has 
to solve is to establish right relations between Irishmen 
North and South. Consequently, I hold that the test 


of the merit of any proposed reform is less whether it 
gives the same measure of freedom as that acquired 
by Poles or Czechs or Slavs, than whether it will tend 
to liberate forces that make for the unification of all 
Ireland. Carsonism stands condemned because its 
adherents are prepared to accept disunion in Ireland 
as the price of maintaining political union with Great 
Britain ; and a system under which all the resources 
of an Irish Republic would be required to coerce the 
northern counties into submission seems to me an 
equally disastrous alternative. Sinn Fein boasts that 
it has made Ireland an international question, and I 
do not minimise the importance of this, though, I 
confess, the evidence in support of the claim is not 
yet very convincing. A vigorous foreign policy pre- 
supposes a sound domestic policy. But on the gravest 
of Irish issues Sinn Fein has so far little to offer save the 
empty threats of Mr. De Valera, though its advocates 
must be aware that the Ulster difficulty is as for- 
midable an obstacle in the international as in the 
domestic sphere. If Sinn Fein is, as it can now 
fairly claim to be, the creed of the Irish people, it 
must propound a solution of the Ulster riddle based, 
not on abstract theories, but on the realities of the 





Belfast is to Ulster what Paris is supposed to be to 
France. It imposes its will on the community, and 
no movement succeeds to which it denies support. 
Unlike Dublin, whose lead the other three provinces 
do not invariably follow, the capital of Ulster rarely 
makes the mistake of going too far ahead, but has the 
gift of intensifying and giving coherence and direction 
to the vaguer emotions and impulses of the country- 
side. Many visitors have been tempted to dismiss it 
as no more than a Scottish or English industrial centre 
dumped by some freakish chance into an Irish setting. 
This view is common among South of Ireland folk, 
Unionists as well as Nationalists, who resent its 
existence not only as an anomaly but as an offence. 
The cocksure perkiness of its red-brick houses jars 
on their nerves ; its monstrous array of factory 
chimneys, flaunting plumes of smoke above the 
diminished spires of churches, symbolises commer- 
cialism exulting in the overthrow of all that is simple 
and comely in life. I know many to whom the most 
fitting svmbol of the town is the appalling chorus of 
steam-whistles, buzzers, and hooters that startles the 
stranger from sleep in the small hours of the morning. 
It is a Futurist fantasia that would delight Marinetti ; 
to more sensitive folk it sounds as if factories and 


workshops were roaring, like lions at feeding time, 
for their daily tribute of human bodies. 

If Belfast has the faults of commercialism, as even 
its admirers do not deny, it has them in a fashion of 
its own, which helps instead of hindering the develop- 
ment of a fierce and vital personality. It is not merely 
depressing as cross-channel industrial centres often are. 
The soft Irish rains keep it free from grime, and for a 
manufacturing town it is startlingly clean. Its archi- 
tecture, it is true, lacks the suavity and dignity of 
Dublin, and its show buildings achieve little more 
than a tawdry pretentiousness. When Belfast deter- 
mines to be imposing in an ornamental fashion the 
effort is woefully like the display of the vulgarian 
who seeks to dazzle by loading his fat fingers with 
rings and hanging gold chains across his paunch. 
There may be other cities which present as weird a 
jumble of architectural styles, but in none known to 
me is the proportion of good to bad so reminiscent of 
the proportion of bread to sack in Falstaff's tavern bill. 
This craze for variety is always typified to my mind 
by the fate of a row of houses built by an earlier 
generation of Belfast merchants on the Georgian 
model so admirably preserved in Dublin. The houses 
were never masterpieces in any sense of the word ; 
but when I knew them first the mellowness of the 
brick and a certain comeliness in their proportions 
made a gracious appeal to the eye. In their uni- 
formity and sober dignity lay their charm, but these 
qualities were defects in the eyes of later proprietors. 
One innovator, speedily followed by others, relieved 
the monotony, as he felt it, by building out a bow- 
window ; a second was inspired to cover the walls 
with pebble-dashed stucco ; a third, not to be out- 
done, painted his bricks in a chequer-board of red 
and white ; and residents, who could not rise to these 
sublime heights, experimented in fancy doors and 
fanlights filled with atrocious stained glass. 


The curious thing is that Belfast achieves its worst 
outrages when it is, as it fondly believes, making con- 
cessions to beauty. A characteristic example used to, 
or indeed may still, greet the eye of travellers entering 
the city by rail from Dublin. Outside the terminus is 
a pond, whose green, scummy waters, fringed with 
doleful patches of grass, are set in the middle of a web 
of railway-lines, where strings of trucks charge each 
other eternally like maddened bulls. One day some- 
body, presumably in the hope of redeeming the sur- 
rounding ugliness, placed a couple of swans on the 
pond, and what had been merely a nuisance became 
from that hour a shuddering horror. Where, however, 
a strictly utilitarian aim has been pursued, as in 
the city's cliff-like mills and factories, one gets an 
impression of naked power, that if not pleasant, is 
markedly impressive. Only those for whom aesthetics 
ended with Ruskin will deny beauty to Belfast Har- 
bour and to the miles of shipyards that line the banks 
of the Lagan. The intricate steel tracery of the 
gantries that straddle over enormous liners makes an 
appeal to the imagination stronger than that of 
crumbling mediaeval castles, and the exquisite pro- 
portions and harmonious rhythm of the whole 
fabric would have delighted a Greek, even if it is 
despised by some who rave over the fretted stonework 
of Gothic cathedrals. 

Fortunately Belfast is not modern to the exclusion 
of nature ; as in Edinburgh, the country dominates 
the town. From its busiest streets one has only to 
lift one's eyes to rejoice in hills and heather ; a penny 
tram journey will bring the traveller into a region as 
wild as Donegal and as lonely as the Irish midlands. 
If Belfast children are city born, it is their good luck 
not to be street-bred. They have the key of the 
fields, and the least adventurous of them roam far 
and wide, enjoying all country delights from bird- 


nesting in the spring to blackberry gathering in the 
autumn. Like Wordsworth's Lucy, they lean an 
ear — 

" In many a secret place, 
Where rivulets dance their wayward round ; " 

and if " beauty born of murmuring sound " does not 
always, as the poet prophesied, pass into their faces, 
the influence of these golden hours is not as negligible 
as it is generally assumed to be. Hard-headed Belfast 
people indeed profess to scoff at such things. Because 
they cannot be measured in hard cash they rule them 
out of consideration ; and a visitor anxious to see 
the sights of the town is more likely to be given a 
chance of inspecting the system of sewage disposal 
than to be piloted to the summit of the Cave Hill or 
the Black Mountain. 

Belfast's weakness is to rest her claims too strongly 
on the basis of purely material success. A local 
versifier some years ago made it her greatest boast 
that — 

** She has turned the flax to gold. 
And the most tobacco rolled," 

and few people saw anything ridiculous in the asser- 
tion. She sets up tables of imports and exports to be 
worshipped like the Golden Calf, and believes that her 
low rate of pauperism suffices to rank her with the 
New Jerusalem. Her people have evolved a con- 
ception of themselves which bears a startling resem- 
blance to the " economic man " of Victorian text- 
books ; and there is probably no city of the same 
size in the Three Kingdoms which retains so much 
of the spirit of the early Industrial Revolution, 
with its childlike faith in the gospel of salvation by 
machinery and its glorification of the man of business 
as the real saviour of society. Samuel Smiles's 
Self-Help is still a book which Ulster mothers present 


to their sons as a companion volume to the Bible and 
the Pilgrim'' s Progress ; and if its author's prosaic 
ghost should ever revisit the glimpses of the moon he 
would probably find Belfast more to his liking than 
any other town. Here the men who rule affairs have 
for the most part graduated from back offices, and their 
successors in those offices dream of a future when 
they too shall glide to business in a Rolls-Royce car, 
and act as director on the boards of a score of com- 

Progress is for the majority the art of " getting on," 
as they describe it ; the test of a man is less what he 
did than what he made. I have heard a Belfast clergy- 
man tell of a wealthy member of his flock, who, when 
the conversation turned on religion, declared his 
mind was easy as there were only three questions a 
man needed to answer, and he was able to answer 
them. " What are the questions ? " asked the 
minister. " How much money did you make ? Did 
you make it honestly ? What did you do with it ? " 
" I don't see any objection to the second and third," 
said the clergyman. " Have sense, man," came the 
reply. " What would be the good of asking the last 
two without the first? Another pillar of the Presby- 
terian Church, who had also made a large fortune in 
business, was induced late in life to take a holiday in 
the Holy Land. After a few days sight-seeing he 
was discovered one evening shaking a melancholy 
head. " This sort of thing is very enjoyable," he said, 
" but it isn't work. A business man's place is in his 

This point of view of work not as a means, but as 
an end in itself, is not at all peculiar. It is openly 
preached as the orthodox creed ; and the vision of 
toilers as busy as ants, and to as little purpose, 
imposes on many strangers and inspires them with 
a lively dislike of Ulster. Yet it is not true, or is 


true only with deductions that make it a fantastic 
paradox.^ The Belfast man spares no pains to paint 
himself as a slavish materialist ; he is really an in- 
curable romanticist. Business has for him the 
fascination of a great adventure ; in his devotion to 
it he feels he is waving the flag of an ideal in the face 
of an apathetic Ireland. In his attitude there is a 
hint of the emotionalism with which America gilds 
the dollar-hunt, yet to the Belfastman neither the 
dollars nor work come first. Touch him on religion 
or politics, and everything else goes to the wall. A 
political war-cry shouted in a back street, the waving 
of a green or orange rag, are sufficient to resolve the 
city into a good imitation of a mediaeval Italian town, 
with its Montagues and Capulets not merely biting 
thumbs at one another but locked in a deadly grapple. 
Belfast's sudden relapses into savagery are a feature 
of its record much more characteristic than its com- 
mercial progress ; and it is safe to say that during 
the last half century, when it emerges into the light 
of general history it has been as the storm-centre of 
upheavals that stopped just short of revolution. 

Lord Morley in his Recollections states fairly 
enough the paradox of Belfast which has baffled 
other than philosophic Liberals. " This great and 
flourishing community, where energy, intelligence, and 
enterprise have achieved results so striking, has 
proved," he writes, " to harbour a spirit of bigotry 
and violence for which a parallel can hardly be found 
in any town in w^estern Europe. The outbreaks of 
disorder in 1857, in 1864, and 1872 were as formidable 
as any that have taken place in these Kingdoms, even 
in the most agitated times of the nineteenth century. 
There is no such anachronism in our day as the cir- 
cumstances that make the anniversary of the battle 
of the Boyne and the Feast of the Assumption days 
always of anxiety, and often of terror, in one of 


the most industrious and thriving societies of the 

I remember vividly my first visit as a small boy to 
Belfast. A faction fight that lasted for weeks was 
flickering out, and my introduction was sufficiently 
thrilling. Policemen with rifles and revolvers were 
massed at every corner ; in one of the danger zones 
which we skirted tired infantry were dozing by com- 
panies on the pavements ; and we passed a detach- 
ment of Lancers escorting a mob of dishevelled 
prisoners, some of whom were tied to the stirrup- 
leathers of the troopers. To me it was a blend of the 
London of the Gordon Riots, of which I had read in 
Barnaby Rudge, and of the Paris of A Tale of Two 
Cities — romance brought up to date. The better I 
know Belfast the more I am convinced that this idea 
of romance lurks in a muddled fashion in the minds of 
not a few of those whose deeds have won it such an 
unsavoury reputation. Clayhanger tells Hilda Less- 
ways that in the Five Towns " our poetry is blood." 
In Belfast it is blood that makes poetry, not symbolic 
but real blood. Its faction fighters do not regard 
themselves as bad citizens or wilful disturbers of the 
peace. To themselves they are rather moss-troopers, 
whose debatable land is the tangle of frowsy streets 
that divide the Protestant from the Nationalist 
quarter ; and it does not affect the parallel that bows 
and spears have been replaced by paving-stones and 
porter bottles and iron nuts. 

Belfast is a raw new city, and out of its broils it 
evolves the legend which is as essential to new cities 
as old. One generation points out to another a gate 
still riddled with bullet-holes ; a corner, famous for 
the operations of a sniper who, anticipating German 
methods, fixed a flagstone on a push-cart, and advan- 
cing under cover behind it fired safely into the brown 
of his enemies ; a cul-de-sac into which a body of 


dragoons were lured and had to fight their way out 
with stones ratthng off their brass helmets as riveters' 
hammers clang on steel plates in the shipyards. Natur- 
ally youngsters, to whom these tales and a thousand 
others are told, make for themselves holy places like 
the Mohammedans, and vow, after the fashion of Indian 
braves, that when their turn comes they will prove 
not unworthy of the traditions they have inherited. 
I know it sounds almost incredible, but at the first 
church I attended in Belfast in the early nineties 
urchins, hidden from observation in the back seats, 
used to while away the time by scribbling on the walls, 
or cutting with their pen-knives on the pews, such 
sentiments as " Ulster will Fight," "Morley, Murderer 
and Atheist " — the author of the Compromise had 
been Irish Chief Secretary during the '86 riots 
and his name at the time was an abomination to 
Orangemen — " Blast John Dillon and Tim Healy," 
and remarks even more unfit for polite ears. This was 
simply a case of "as the old cock crows the young 
ones cackle," for the parson was a famous Orange 
stalwart whose sermons were political tirades gar- 
nished with Scripture quotations, and who once 
offered me a book entitled Mr, Gladstone, or a Life 
Misspent, which, to my eternal regret, I did not 

In public respectable folk deplore outbreaks of 
disorder ; in private it is rare to find any who do not 
back one side against the other. An Englishman, 
who in his first days in Belfast had the ill luck to get 
mixed up in a party scuffle, used to tell how in his 
innocence he turned next morning to the local papers 
for an explanation of this madness, and discovered 
to his amazement Nationalist and Unionist journals 
alike engaged in a hot discussion as to which faction 
had the best of it. On occasion even respectable 
folk forget their respectability. Thus a merchant 


entering his office one morning after a Nationalist 
procession had hacked its way through a Unionist 
district, found his foreman, ordinarily the primmest 
of Puritans, with his coat half torn from his back, 
and blood running down his face from an ugly wound. 
" John," he cried in horror, " don't tell me you were 
in this disgraceful business ? " "I was, indeed, sir," 
said John. " Thank God, I'm no arm-chair politician." 
In John's sense there are few arm-chair politicians 
in Belfast, and his spirit flashes out in strange places. 
Some years ago, after a bad outbreak of rioting, 
the City Council proposed to take steps which, it was 
claimed, would go a long way to prevent future 
troubles. In the fighting quarter, it should be know^n, 
the streets are mainly paved with cobble stones or 
" kidneys," to give them their local name. At the 
first sign of hostilities these are prized up with pokers 
and stacked in heaps by the women to serve as 
ammunition dumps for the fighters. The Corporation 
scheme was to substitute macadam for the cobble 
stones, but when the motion came up for discussion 
it was discovered that the plan was to begin with the 
Nationalist area, whose representatives, not un- 
naturally, raised a storm of protest against the unfair 
advantage this method of disarmament would confer 
on their opponents. I believe there were some 
negotiations, but they came to nothing, and to this 
day the cobble-stones remain. 

One can well understand the amazement and even 
horror of outsiders confronted for the first time with 
such a state of affairs. Nevertheless it is a vast mis- 
take to assume, as outsiders so often do, that the 
squalid jehads of Belfast are the inevitable expression 
in action of sectarian and political passions so vehe- 
ment that only the clash of physical combat will 
cool the fervour of rival partisans. I should be the 
last to deny the grim reality of the antagonisms that 


make Ulster history such dismal reading for all who 
cherish the ideal of Irish unity. But, as in most 
Irish problems, there is a historical explanation which 
goes a long way to modify the conclusions drawn by 
those who are content to judge from surface appear- 
ances. The conditions prevailing in Ulster are not the 
peculiar outcome of divisions between Unionists and 
Nationalists, but represent, in a very large degree, the 
survival of an old and evil habit which, not so many 
generations ago, was the rule rather than the exception 
all over Ireland. While it would be absurd to say that 
the feuds are kept alive for the love of faction fighting, 
undeniably the love of fighting for its own sake is one 
of the factors which complicate the task of reformers 
who preach peace and goodwill. 

If Ulster does not accept all the tenets of the 
Nietzschean gospel, it profoundly agrees with its 
author that " a good war justifies any cause." 
Naturalh^ this view is incredible to the law-abiding 
Englishman, who sees in a physical encounter 
with sticks and stones the collapse of the 
corner stone of the commonwealth and the coming 
of universal anarchy. Ireland, having no laws of her 
own to respect, and — let us be honest, even if the 
admission ruffles the susceptibilities of super-sensitive 
patriots — thoroughly enjoying a fight, perceives 
nothing abnormal in this method of getting rid of bad 
blood. Philip Skelton is rightly regarded as one of 
the saints of the Irish Episcopal Church, yet to his 
dying day he exalted amongst his heroes Baldwin, the 
Provost of Trinity, who, in one of the frays with the 
butchers of Patrick's Market, which for eighteenth 
century Dublin students made compulsory attendance 
at St. Patrick's Cathedral a joy instead of a penance, 
led his flock into action, crying, " Follow me, my lads, 
and I'll head you. I am appointed by your parents 
and friends to take care of you, and I'll fight for you 


till I die." Skelton, according to his biographer, used 
to add exultantly, " He would have done so too, for 
he was as brave as a lion." 

The tendency is not peculiar to Irish blood ; on the 
contrary it is a deep-rooted instinct in most races, 
which is slowly eliminated as a result of education, 
discipline, and good government. The rulers of 
Ireland, however, so far from taking steps to wean 
their subjects from this weakness, set themselves to 
encourage it as an essential part of the policy of 
" Divide and Conquer." This is frankly admitted by 
no less an authority than Sir George Cornewall Lewis. 
In his Irish Disturbances, which is still the classical 
work on the subject, he says : — " At one time the 
local authorities encouraged faction fighting ; it 
seemed to them that the people must necessarily 
raise their hands against someone ; and they thought 
that factions would serve the same purpose as the 
stone thrown by Cadmus among the earth-born 
warriors of Thebes — that of turning the violence of 
the combatants from themselves upon one another." 

Thomas Drummond, whose statue stands in the 
Dublin City Hall, beside those of Grattan and O'Connell 
as a memorial, in Mr. Barry O'Brien's words, " of the 
solitary English official who won the hearts of her 
people," found in the thirties of the last century, 
when he was striving to curb the factions in the 
interests of public order, that he was upsetting the 
traditional policy of Dublin Castle. " I ought to 
mention," Drummond informed a Committee of the 
House of Lords, " that it was a practice at one time 
not uncommon, to dra^v the police from fairs with a 
view to preventing collisions with the people ; and 
when the order that they should attend was given, I 
received a representation from Sir John Harvey, the 
provincial inspector of Leinster, begging that the 
subject might be well considered before the order was 


sent out, for he felt that very serious consequences 
might result from it — the policy having been to with- 
draw the men out of sight and leave the people to 
fight among themselves unrestrained, rather than 
risk the loss of life by collision with the constabulary." 
Mr. Barry O'Brien, from whose admirable biography 
of Drummond I have taken this extract, adds the 
comment, " there was no hesitation in allowing the 
police to shoot down peasants who refused to pay 
tithes ; but drunken brawlers at markets and fairs 
were not to be interfered w^ith ! " 

Some of the factions, such as the Caravats and 
Shanavests of Kilkenny and Waterford, and the Two 
Year Olds and Three Year Olds of Limerick and Tip- 
perary, have passed into history. The original cause of 
dispute between the Tw^o Year Olds and Three Year 
Olds was supposed to be the age of a horse, and for 
generations a whole countryside fought ferociously 
at fairs and patterns on this miserable pretext. The 
local varieties of factionism were innumerable. Thus 
in North Tipperary, in 1834, three baronies could 
show the following list of factions — Ruskavallas and 
Caffees, Dingens and Dawsons, Cumminses and 
Darrigs, Bootashees, Bog Boys, and Tubbers. The 
Bootashees were O'Briens, who derived their name 
from their custom of wrapping their legs in pieces of 
leather tied with thongs, and their vendetta against 
the Tubbers and Bog Boys, who were composed of 
Kennedys and Hagans, was due to a quarrel between 
two small boys of rival camps over a game of marbles, 
** This," Sir George Cornewall Lewis writes, 
" happened about thirty years ago, and from that 
period to the present the factions have continued 
fighting at fairs and markets, and other public 

By their own efforts the Irish people eradicated 
the virus. Father Mathew's Temperance campaign 


gave the first impulse, and O'Connell's Repeal move- 
ment exercised a still more powerful influence, by 
instilling into the minds of even the dullest of the 
peasantry a sense of the value of unity and discipline. 
Once the Land War began in earnest it was realised 
that local feuds were too expensive a luxury for a 
country like Ireland. The success of the struggle 
against territorial autocracy depended, in the first 
instance, on the determination of individual tenants 
on rack-rented estates to give practical application to 
the doctrines of the leaders ; and if these tenants 
were more inclined to crack the skulls of their fellows 
than to concentrate against landlordism the whole 
crusade would have speedily collapsed. It was by 
no means an easy task to conquer a habit which had 
not only the sanction of long tradition, but was 
thoroughly congenial to the temperament of those 
who practised it. Uphill work as it was, the thing 
was done, and the manner of its doing is not least of 
the achievements of the Irish people in the last 

Ulster alone, in this as in so much else, remained 
an exception to the general rule. Orangeism 
was not moved by the arguments that induced its 
opponents to subordinate local antagonisms to 
national ends ; on the contrary, it saw in this unity a 
challenge which necessitated more stringent efforts 
on its part to assert its claims. Consequently, as 
faction-fighting died out elsewhere, it acquired a 
new and more sinister significance in the northern 
province. I do not minimise the gravity of the 
conflicts, but I do protest against the reasoning that 
assumes that every stone flung at an Orange proces- 
sion, or every head broken on Lady Day when 
Nationalists hold their parades, is evidence of a 
hatred too fierce to be extinguished by any measure 
of statesmanship. As a matter of fact the actual 


belligerents take these encounters much more philo- 
sophically and in a much better spirit than their 
respective leaders. The majority hugely enjoy their 
skirmishes, and their attitude to their opponents is 
admirably summed up in the expressive Ulster phrase, 
''friends fighting through other." A proof of this is 
the fact that the deepest wrath of both sides is 
reserved for the unfortunate constabulary whose task 
it is to prevent the combatants from settling their 
differences in their own way. 

Having lived in Ulster for years before Sir Edward 
Carson blossomed out as a " leader of revolt," I am 
not impressed by the case put forward by special 
pleaders in both camps that old hostilities were dying 
down till the Home Rule agitation gave them a new 
lease of life. Unionists accept this view because it 
enables them to contend that no real demand existed 
for self-government ; Nationalists use it as a stick 
for Tories who exploited Ulster antagonisms in the 
hope of overthrowing a hated Radical Ministry. It 
is true, however, that the ferocity of rival partisans 
had sensibly diminished in modern times ; riots on 
the epical scale of 1864 and 1886 were a memory 
cherished only by the members of an older generation, 
to whom the minor outbreaks of disorder which at 
long intervals disturbed the city seemed a proof that 
virtue had gone out of the race. The most serious 
upheaval between 1886 and the Carson crusade was 
the Transport Workers' strike of 1907, which had 
nothing whatever to do with sectarian differences. 
On the contrary, Orangemen, for the first time in 
living memory, were banded with Nationalists, and 
not a few of them took part in the conflicts on the 
Falls Road with the troops and constabulary. 

Sir Edward Carson's real offence is not that he 
created sectarian enmities, but that instead of helping 
to obliterate them he increased a thousandfold their 


venom and virulence. His admirers, indeed, do not 
hesitate to claim that as there was no actual rioting 
during the years their leader was mustering his 
forces in the North, his true garland is that of the 
peace-bringer, not of the war-maker. Even they, 
one would think, can hardly expect this argument 
to be taken seriously. If there was less stone-throwing, 
this was simply because the stone-throwers were 
encouraged to hope that by holding themselves in for 
a little they would be able to finish the job once for 
all with Mauser rifles and machine-guns. On a minor 
scale Sir Edward Carson set himself to do exactly 
what he makes it the chief crime of the German 
Junkers to have done. His appeal, like theirs, was 
always to force, never to reason or justice, and he 
deliberately played on passions which might gain 
him a political triumph, but entailed a rattling back 
into barbarism of the community by a surrender to 
its basest instincts. To flood a city like Belfast with 
lethal weapons for the avowed purpose of pursuing a 
political and sectarian vendetta was a crime akin to 
that of the gun-runner who distributes cheap rifles in 
Equatorial Africa. 

It was easy enough to smile at the sort of en- 
thusiasm that made it fashionable for women to 
discard tennis racquets for signal flags, and led men 
of the true faith to honour acquaintances no longer 
with a casual nod but with a punctilious military 
salute. In the early days of the movement one's 
chief regret was that Sir Edward Carson had not 
insisted on heel-clicking as one of the accomplishments 
of his Volunteers. Had he done so, Belfast would 
have suggested still more strongly a rehearsal on a 
large scale of a Viennese musical comedy. Unfor- 
tunately the hysteria speedily assumed other and 
more questionable shapes. It was decidedly em- 
barrassing for nervous folk who found themselves 


jammed in a crowd assembled to greet Sir Edward 
Carson, as the appearance of the leader was invariably 
the signal for a fusilade of revolver shots by exultant 
enthusiasts. I knew a Belfast newspaper office where 
it was the custom during the crisis to keep a Lee- 
Enfield rifle lying on the files. A drawer in the editor's 
desk would be casually opened and then hurriedly 
snapped to, but not before the eyes of a visitor had 
caught, as they were meant to catch, a glimpse of a 
row of automatic pistols. This, of course, was only 
a harmless device to impress innocent visitors 
from England — nobody in the office had ever fired 
even a blank cartridge, or was at all anxious 
to do so. 

There was, however, no real need to stage-manage 
things for the inquiring stranger. When it became the 
fashion for half Belfast to go about its business and 
its pleasure with a revolver in its hip-pocket, life was 
more exciting than it is in Albania or in a mining 
town as shown in cinema films of the wild and woolly 
West. I have seen a drunken Volunteer reeling home 
on a Saturday night blaze furiously at a street lamp ; 
and at hotly contested football matches a goal would 
be greeted by a salvo of revolver shots from the 
spectators, which sent mud and gravel spirting up 
almost under the feet of the players. As in most 
other things Belfast must complicate even football 
with politics. The Linfield team is claimed by the 
Unionists and the Celtic by the Nationalists, and a 
contest between the two concludes as often as not 
with a battle-royal between their supporters. To this 
day to raise the cry in the streets " Go on the Blues " 
or " Go on the Stripes " — the pet names of the rival 
teams — is an offence punishable by a fine of forty 
shillings or a month's imprisonment on the ground of 
" using expressions calculated to provoke a breach 
of the peace." These things may seem ludicrous 


rather than tragic, but the tragedy was plain enough 
to all who were not blinded by the passions of the 
hour. Presbyterian Moderators and ex-Moderators 
lauded the discipline of the Carson Volunteers, 
and archbishops and bishops glorified the armed 
neutrality of the rival camps as if it signified the dawn 
of a new Utopia in which the will-to-power should 
finally supersede the pacifist fallacies of the Sermon 
on the Mount. But men who possessed no claim to 
sanctity, and were concerned only for the secular 
welfare of the community, had little difficulty in 
discerning behind this affectation of order and unity 
an attempt, more steady and purposeful than any 
that had hitherto been made, to persuade Ulstermen 
that the holiest task to which they could devote 
themselves was to bellow hymns of hate against their 

Before Sir Edward Carson swooped down on Ulster 
this task was left, in the main, to a handful of Orange 
parsons, for whom the official parliamentary leaders 
declined to accept responsibility when the fervour of 
their loyalty brought them into conflict with the 
authorities. In the Belfast of my youthful days the 
most prominent of these zealots were a Presbyterian, 
known to friends and foes alike from the vigour of his 
oratory as " Roaring" Hugh Hanna, and an Episco- 
palian, Dr. R. R. Kane. " Roaring Hugh," whose 
work for Protestantism has been honoured by a 
statue of almost incredible hideousness, won his spurs 
as a champion of free speech. He claimed the right 
to deliver his harangues at the Custom House steps, 
an experiment which led to fierce riots entailing a 
heavy loss of life. When questioned before a commis- 
sion of inquiry as to whether he would consider it 
his duty to preach when he believed rioting would 
ensue, he answered, " I would. Our most valuable 
rights have been obtained by conflict, and if we 


cannot maintain them without that, we must submit 
to the necessity." Later, a group of simple-minded 
Sociahsts decided to take advantage of " Roaring 
Hugh's " victory for free speech by holding an open- 
air meeting at the Custom House steps. The pro- 
ceedings had scarcely begun before an orator had an 
eye knocked out by the mob, and his comrades were 
with difficulty saved by the police from being drowned 
in the Lagan. 

Dr. Kane was a more complex personality. Standing 
well over six feet, straight as a lance, he resembled, 
when arrayed in his trappings as Grand Master he 
headed his legions on the Twelfth of July, rather a 
mediaeval bishop going forth to war than a meek 
Protestant pastor. No man raged more loudly 
against priestly domination ; no man practised it 
more thoroughly at the expense of his parishioners. 
It was a common sight to see him driving with his 
blackthorn into church a mob of loafers whom he had 
culled from publichouse corners ; and while his face 
would flush past red into purple as he denounced the 
iniquities of Catholic priests who dragged politics into 
religion, his own sermons were better fitted for an 
Orange platform than foi; a Christian pulpit. To do 
him justice, he did not fly at small game ; and I 
remember him bearding to his face a Tory Lord 
Lieutenant who had ventured to remonstrate with 
Belfast Orangemen. Dr. Kane had his own quarrels 
with his official leaders, and in his later years his line 
of development was a sore trial to his associates. He 
joined the Gaelic League at a time when many 
Nationalists looked askance at the movement. " My 
Orangeism," he said, '' does not make me less proud 
to be an O'Cahan." I have heard him boast that his 
ancestors were with the rebels in '98, and that had 
he lived then he was not at all certain on which side 
he would have fought. Unlike the new school of 


Orangemen, Dr. Kane had no great opinion of the 
inherent wisdom and beneficence of the English 
rulers of Ireland. His part in the campaign against 
over-taxation in the early nineties brought him into 
contact with strange allies, and had he been a smaller 
man he would have been denounced for '' trafficking 
with traitors." Not that this would have troubled 
him overmuch. He could always be relied on to give 
as good as he got, and were he alive to-day I am 
certain he would have fought tooth and nail as an 
Irishman against Sir Edward Carson's scheme for 
making the north-eastern counties English shireland. 

The later developments of Dr. Kane had a precedent 
in the career of John Rea, who, like Sir Edward Car- 
son, was a lawyer, but a lawyer with a difference. In 
the vivid Irish phrase, Rea was a " playboy," whose 
foible it was to see good in both political parties, and 
who fought for that good with a persistence that 
amazed no less than it confounded narrow partisans. 
His favourite description of himself as " her Orthodox 
Presbyterian Britannic Majesty's Orange-Fenian 
Attorney-General for Ulster " was not only a Gar- 
gantuan mouthful of words such as his soul loved, 
but was strictly true to the spirit of his chequered 
career. From the windows of his house Green and 
Orange flags flew side by side ; and when he was 
released from jail — imprisonment for contempt of 
Court was so much the rule with him that he appeared 
to plead important cases with a bag packed with 
necessaries for a spell behind prison bars — Nationalist 
and Unionist bands joined in amity to play him 

Clifford Lloyd, the notorious resident magistrate 
whose exploits in Land League days out-Zaberned 
Zabern, was first stationed at Belfast, where 
naturally he came into conflict with John Rea, 
whose Protean political activities would have stag- 


gered a much more sympathetic guardian of the 
peace. One of Lloyd's first duties was to enforce 
the suppression of an Orange demonstration, which 
had been summoned to overawe a Nationalist meeting 
held in Nationalist territory. Despite the proclama- 
tion the Orangemen assembled, and, headed by John 
Rea, strove to force their way through the ranks of the 
constabulary, in order, as they said, to assert the 
right of public meeting and free speech. A few weeks 
later Clifford Lloyd was called on to protect an 
Orange meeting against which the Nationalists had 
threatened reprisals. To his amazement, when the 
attackers appeared, John Rea, mounted on a horse 
and carrying a green flag, led them into action. The 
third encounter between the two took place in a 
Belfast theatre, where Rea, rising between the acts, 
pointed out Clifford Lloyd to the mob in the gallery, 
and denounced him with such eloquence that the 
unlucky magistrate, assailed by Nationalist and 
Unionist partisans alike, was forced to beat a hasty 
retreat. Rea's originality was not confined to politics. 
He tramped about Belfast attended always by a 
couple of Irish water-spaniels, believed by some of his 
clients to be his familiars, and, like most men of his 
generation, he made Byron the god of his idolatry. 
When he was approaching his grand climacteric 
he announced his intention of swimming Bangor Bay 
in imitation of his hero's feat in swimming the Helles- 
pont, and the special trains which an enterprising 
railway company ran to the scene were wholly in- 
sufficient to accommodate the thousands of Belfast 
people who were determined to witness the exploit. 

In his Fall of Feudalism, Michael Davitt reprints a 
characteristic letter, written by Rea from Downpatrick 
Jail during one of his many terms of imprisonment 
for contempt of Court, asking to have sent to him " a 
gallon or two of essence of shamrocks," by which, 


he explained, " I mean good Ulster buttermilk, with 
just a dash of sweet milk through it — say one-fourth, 
not more — to take off the acidity." In a lyrical 
rhapsody he continues, " Poets may sing as they like 
of Falernian, old Coleraine, Guinness' s stout. Bass's 
beer, and French champagne, but from life-long 
experience (and you have often had practical know- 
ledge during our thirty-five years' friendship of the 
fact that I never was a teetotaller) I can certify that 
there is not a drink available for the human race at 
all. equal to the essence of shamrocks. . . . But for 
my great love of mixed milk and curled dogs I would 
now, to a dead certainty, be not an Orange prisoner 
in Downpatrick Jail, fifteen stone weight and in the 
highest possible spirits, but a very unsubstantial 
Irish- Orange- Fenian angel flying through Purgatory 
with a plumage of a most dingy hue, or perhaps, if 
in favour with St. Peter, of orange, green and 
crimson, the Irish Tricolour." One of the great events 
of Rea's life was his defence of the prisoners in the 
first prosecutions against the Land League held in 
Sligo in 1879. Rea secured for the trial exactly the 
advertisement that Parnell and Davitt desired, and 
his vitriolic wit reduced the proceedings to a roaring 
farce. While he gibed mercilessly inside the Court at 
prosecutors and magistrates, demanding indignantly 
to know, when one of them mispronounced a word, 
" whether it was permissible for a man in the pay of 
the Crown to murder the Queen's English," he spent 
the luncheon interval, to Parnell' s horror, in making 
speeches to a crowd of pious Catholics outside, who 
listened for the first time to laudations of William of 
Orange and fiery denunciations of the blighting 
tyranny exercised by " Romish priests and Italian 

Rea was not merely an eccentric, as some of his 
contemporaries professed to believe, he was ad- 


mittedly one of the best criminal lawyers of his time, 
and proved more than a match for Lord Russell of 
Killowen, who, before he became a member of the 
English bar, was as a solicitor Rea's rival in Belfast. 
Rea died by his own hand in the 'eighties, and local 
tradition has it that he shot himself after a visit from 
his old competitor, who reproached him with having 
wilfully wasted abilities that would have raised him 
to the Woolsack. I do not believe Russell ever uttered 
such sentiments, or that, if he had been stupid enough 
to do so, Rea would have received them otherwise 
than with a shout of laughter. He may not have 
attained power and place, but he dominated Belfast 
while he lived, and the supremacy he enjoyed was 
more to his taste than anything London could have 
given him. Those who have a liking for the dramatic 
in politics will always regret that John Rea was not 
spared to measure swords with Sir Edward Carson. 
However the struggle might have ended, such a 
battle of giants w^ould have added a picturesque 
chapter to Ulster history. 



The combativeness of Belfast is equalled only by its 
self-assertiveness. For many the name conjures up 
a flushed and vehement person, with a bowler hat 
crammed down on his ears, who resents a slight on 
his town as Cyrano resented a reflection on his nose. 
He makes his very faults a panache, and if he does 
not defend them like the Gascon with a sword, he 
shoots off facts and figures at opponents for all the 
world as if he were an animated Lewis gun. Nor is 
the Belfast man's '' guid conceit " of himself merely 
a piece of arrogance. He is conscious of having 
created something unique of its kind in Ireland, and 
any attempt to belittle that achievement brings him 
into the field, horse, foot, and artillery, ready and 
panting for battle. Strange as it may seem to out- 
siders, the Ulsterman is firmly convinced that to have 
woven better linen and built bigger liners than his 
rivals is a proof not merely of his economic superiority 
but of the soundness of his politics and the truth of 
his religion. And when the manner in which he 
weaves his linen or builds his ships is questioned he 
feels his politics and religion are being assailed. This 
assumption is by no means so baseless as it appears 
at first sight. His opponents may profess to direct 
their attacks to purely practical questions like the 
employment of half-timers or the underpayment of 
home-workers, but some of them are sure to draw an 
anti-Unionist moral, and the Ulsterman is convinced 
that the mildest reflection on Unionism is inspired by 
a hatred of the fundamental principles of Protes- 


Of course he has largely himself to blame, for it 
was he who combined business, politics, and religion 
into a triple-headed idol, before which he not only 
bows himself, but demands that the rest of his fellow- 
countrymen shall prostrate themselves in awe and 
adoration. Every shipbuilding record achieved on 
the banks of the Lagan is acclaimed as another nail 
in the coffin of Home Rule ; when Belfast at the end 
of a good year reckons up its profits it flourishes the 
total in the face of Dublin and Cork as a final proof 
that it is right and they are wrong. So ingrained is 
the habit of returning thanks that they are not as 
other men, " even as these Nationalists," that Ulster- 
men, in exalting themselves at the expense of political 
opponents, can turn a blind eye to the most awkward 
facts. I shall never forget a speech I once heard a 
Unionist member make to his constituents, after 
what was probably the rowdiest election modern 
Ulster has known. In the square where he spoke 
practically every window had been shattered by 
stones, and a couple of hundred yards away police 
with drawn batons were charging an Orange mob 
which had raided into Nationalist territory. Yet the 
burden of the new member's song was that the 
election would be an example to the South and West 
of the discipline and order that made Ulster irresis- 
tible. At the time I felt sure he was speaking with 
his tongue in his cheek ; now I know that, however 
illogical he may have been, he was not consciously 

Belfast's boastfulness and self-conceit reached 
sublime heights during the war. Its recruiting 
returns were poor as compared with any British 
industrial area under the voluntary system, yet it 
persuades itself, and has succeeded in persuading 
others, that its contribution turned the scale against 
Germany almost as decisively as the intervention of 


the American army. Sir Edward Carson never 
mounts a platform nowadays without trumpeting to 
high heaven the glorious deeds of Belfast workers in 
building and repairing ships for the Navy and weaving 
aeroplane sails for the Allied armies. No one will 
dispute that Belfast's record is a subject for legitimate 
pride, but the chief concern of Ulster Unionists is to 
use it as a weapon against their political opponents. 
They inquire indignantly why Munster built no ships 
and Leinster no aeroplanes. When it is pointed out 
that the farmers of these provinces, if they did not 
feed the guns, fed the men that worked the guns, the 
invariable retort is that the Irish bacon, beef, and 
butter which helped to break down the submarine 
menace were produced not for love of England, but 
for love of England's money. One would imagine 
that Belfast gave lavishly, asking no return, whereas 
it is notorious that the city has never reaped a richer 
harvest than during the last four years. 

The logic by which the Belfastman seeks to justify 
his claim to stand on a higher plane than his rivals is 
delightfully simple. Protestantism, he contends, is the 
only key to the riddle of why Belfast advances as 
Galway recedes, and those who reject this solution do 
so because they are unwilling to face unpalatable 
facts. The argument has an air of plausibility when 
one contrasts Belfast with Galway ; but its supporters 
are by no means so voluble when they are confronted 
with the baffling case of Derry. No Ulsterman will 
assert that the Protestantism of Derry is less fervent 
than that of Belfast, and the Maiden City possesses 
advantages denied to its younger rival. The district 
surrounding Derry, as Godkin points out in his Land 
War in Ireland, is not inferior in the quality of the 
soil, and its inhabitants lack neither enterprise nor 
intelligence. The Foyle is more navigable than the 
Lagan and better adapted to foreign, especially trans- 


atlantic, trade ; moreover, Belfast, unlike Derry, 
had no estate " granted by the Crown to assist in 
the development of civilisation, education, and com- 
merce." If Protestantism is the sole stimulus required 
to achieve industrial prosperity, how comes it that 
Derry, with all the odds apparently in its favour, has 
lagged so far behind Belfast in the race for wealth ? 

Godkin, who went to history for facts instead of 
relying on prejudices, explains the mystery, as Cliffe 
Leslie and other unbiassed investigators have done, 
by showing that Belfast was the one Irish town in a 
position to take full advantage of the opportunity 
offered by the industrial revolution of the eighteenth 
century. Its greatest asset was less, as most chroniclers 
argue, that the linen-trade had been favoured while 
other Irish industries had been suppressed than that 
the financial difficulties of the Marquis of Donegall, 
the ground landlord of the town, compelled him to 
raise money by giving his tenants perpetuity leases. 
To these perpetuities, Godkin declares, " we must 
undoubtedly ascribe the existence of a middle class of 
remarkable independence of character, and the 
accumulation of capital for manufactures and com- 
merce." '' Had Lord Donegall," he continues, " been 
able to hold the town in a state of tutelage and depen- 
dence . . . Belfast might have been far behind Derry 
to-day. The agent would take care that no interests 
should grow up on the estate which his chief could not 
control or knock down. It is not likely that Lord 
Donegall would have suffered the landscape to be 
spoiled, the atmosphere of the deer-park and gardens 
tainted by the smoke of factory chimneys, which 
could add nothing to his rental, while crowding 
around him the race which his great progenitor did 
so much to extirpate." 

Derry, on the contrary, had the full advantage of 
that paternalism which Sir Edward Carson proclaims 


it is his ambition as well as his fixed determination to 
restore. At the time of the Plantation Derry city 
and county were allotted to the London companies, 
which explains the name Londonderry. These com- 
panies were to act as trustees for the colonists and 
such natives as were permitted to reside inside the 
confiscated territories, furthering their interests, and 
by their superior abilities as rulers and administrators 
raising the tenants higher and higher in the scale 
of civilisation until at last they reached the London 
level. Strange to say, the people of Derry, Protestant 
and Catholic alike, rewarded this devotion with the 
blackest ingratitude. Until the power of the Com- 
panies was finally broken in the nineteenth century, 
the history of the city is one long record of conflict 
with its benefactors as fierce, if not as bloody, as that 
waged against the forces of King James. To the 
Covenanters of to-day who are clamouring to have 
all their affairs regulated from London, it will seem 
monstrous that Derry's Protestant Corporation, well 
within the memory of men still living, should have 
struggled furiously against London's supervision of 
its municipal affairs, should have resented the fact 
that half the revenue these enlightened administrators 
drew from the town was eaten up in expenses of 
management, and denounced their autocratic rule 
as "a national grievance and insult." Godkin, 
writing as late as 1870, declares, " The city is over- 
whelmed with debt — debt for the new quays, debt 
for the new bridge, debt for the public works of the 
Corporation, which has struggled to improve the 
city under the incubus of this alien power, contending 
with debt, want of tenure, and other difficulties, 
which would all have been avoided if the city had 
held the lands which these Londoners hold in their 
possession, and use as their own pleasure dictates. 
. . . Belfast is now seven times the size of Derry, and 


is in the possession of a trade and a trade capital which 
Derry can never hope to emulate, while smothered by 
the stick-in-the-mud policy of that miserable anach- 
ronism, the Irish Society." Protestantism, it would 
seem, is not the only explanation of the record pro- 
gress of Belfast ; and if Sir Edward Carson could be 
induced to study events in the history of Derry later 
than the siege, he might not be so confident that the 
absorption of Ulster in England would inaugurate the 
millenium in the six north-eastern counties. 

In the popular speech of Ulster " Protestant " is 
an epithet which not only distinguishes differences of 
religion, but serves as a label to describe all kinds of 
excellence. So stereotyped is the use of the word in 
this sense that I have heard a Catholic farmer urge 
his labourers who were engaged on some special task 
to make " a good Protestant job " of it. This tra- 
dition of efficiency, and the desire to maintain it, are 
far and away the most valuable products of the gospel 
of work which Belfast preaches so strenuously. As a 
matter of fact, in his utterances on this subject the 
Northerner unconsciously does himself a grave in- 
justice. He pretends to think that work in itself is the 
be-all and end-all of existence, and speaks as if he 
measured its value solely in terms of hard cash. This 
attitude has misled his friends as well as his foes, 
but to anyone who has taken the pains to go deeper 
than surface appearances it is obvious that, as a 
rule, he is merely repeating a formula which does not 
express his real convictions. Those who know the 
Ulster worker well are aware that though he may 
flaunt his " big money," as he calls it, as a final 
answer to his critics, it is not his sole, or even his 
greatest, compensation. He retains in a high degree 
the pride of craftsmanship, and this pride is based 
not only on his individual contribution to the finished 
product but on the finished product itself. 


It is of course an axiom of the new economics that 
the dominance of the machine in modern industry has 
ehminated from labour the joy of the craftsman whose 
work permitted self-expression. Since Ruskin and 
William Morris the fashion is to deplore the hard fate 
of the machine minder who, it is taken for granted, 
has little interest in the processes in which he is 
individually engaged, and less than none in those 
outside his own ken. I do not dispute that this theory 
holds good as a general rule, for I have not collected 
evidence from a sufficient number of sources to 
disprove it. From my own experience, however, I 
should be chary of applying the rule rigidly in Belfast. 
Almost invariably I discovered when I got to know 
a worker well that though he might talk as if he 
measured the value of his firm's output in cash, and 
took a personal pride in a big turn-over which did not 
mean an extra farthing to him in wages, this was not, 
as hostile critics of Belfast are fond of asserting, a 
degrading survival of the spirit of serfdom and 
toadyism. On the contrary, the reflected glory which 
is derived from commercial success by those who have 
all the pains and little of the profits, springs from 
causes highly creditable to the Ulster worker. Get 
deep enough into his mind and one finds that his pride 
in the supremacy of Belfast ships and Belfast linen 
has in it more than a hint of the enthusiasm of the 

This spirit animates not only men who are engaged 
in highly-skilled work, but those whose labours are 
to all .appearances purely mechanical. I always 
remember as typical of Belfast a man whose duty it 
was to stoke the furnaces in a bakehouse, and who 
in the intervals did what he called " donkey- work " 
wheeling in and out the trucks with their batches of 
bread. Few occupations would seem to be more 
deadening, yet my friend, as I discovered, had not 


only the keenest sense of the importance of his own 
work, but a romantic dehght in the whqle mystery 
of baking from the mixing of the dough to the in- 
tricacies of cake ornamentation, an achievement of 
which he spoke much as a mediaeval mason might 
of the artist who painted cathedral frescoes. This 
fireman possessed in a rare degree the gift of racy 
speech, but I soon learned to distinguish something 
of the same spirit glimmering through the utterances 
of his fellows who lacked this gift, though it might 
not be always clearly expressed nor perhaps clearly 
felt by the men themselves. For my own part I 
frankly admit I could never trace any relation be- 
tween this quality and Protestantism, particularly 
with the brand of Protestantism preached north of 
the Boyne. Yet I should not quarrel with a man 
who insisted that in the last analysis a religious 
element can be discerned, provided it is admitted 
that the religion is akin to that of the lines — 

" Who sweeps a room as in Thy sight 
Makes it and the action fine." 

It would be grotesque to say that even a minority 
of Belfast workers dedicate themselves to the task 
of manipulating power-looms or driving rivets as 
Milton dedicated himself to the service of poetry. 
But they do in the mass value efficiency for its own 
sake, and as craftsmen appreciate not only the highly 
specialised processes in which they are engaged, but 
the result which these processes are employed to 
produce. A community in which such a spirit exists 
may choose, as Belfast does, to measure its good 
qualities by materialist standards, but I think it 
possesses virtues not usually associated with pure 

The city in these days can lay claim to poets 
as well as plutocrats, and the latest and most 


considerable of these, Mr. Richard Rowley, has 
worthily sung what he rightly describes as " the 
steely ardours " of his native town. In " The 
Islandmen," a poem inspired by the spectacle of the 
flood of shipyard workers pouring home through the 
dusk, Mr. Rowley has come very near to the secret 
of Belfast. 

" Terrible as an army with banners, : 
The legions of labour 
March endless o'er the Bridge. 
Muffled on muddy pavements 
The sound of their tramping feet 
Throbs a sustaining bass 
Beneath the clamorous music of city ways. 
No proud trumpets call 
With golden voices flattering their march. 
No splendour and no pomp 
Attends them as they go. 

But as they pass 

The individual faces shine, 

The faces of strong men. 

Men who build ships ! 

And some are old, 

Gaunt, grey -bearded, stooped 

With many years of toil, but undejected. 

Still they are proud. 

They have seen the work of their hands 

They have known that it is good. 

And some are young, 

Rejoicing in their youth, 

Rejoicing in the strength they daily prove 

Against the strength of steel ; 


Till from their mastery 

The stubborn iron grows 

A living thing, a noble shape, 

A shape whose heart 

Beats in the mighty pistons they have cast. 

A living thing that treads 

The stormy waters with a conquering step. 

And by fierce winds and waves is unsubdued. 

Only strong hands 

Can give strength visible form ; 

Only proud hearts 

Can fashion shapes of pride. 

Iron and steel are dead 

Till man's creative will 

Shall weld them to the image he desires, 

Shall make a living symbol 

Of the strength and the pride of his soul. 

Splendid the ships they build. 

More splendid far 

The hearts that dare conceive 

Such vastness and such power." 

I suspect Mr. Rowley would not seriously dispute 
that the potentialities he discerns beneath the drab- 
ness of Belfast industrialism are not developed to 
the best advantage. As a matter of fact the danger 
under existing conditions is that they may be 
perverted to base uses. Admirable as pride is, the 
sort of pride that leads men to value their achieve- 
ments less as a stepping-stone to greater things than 
as a pedestal mounted upon which they look down 
with scorn on others who have not been so fortunate, 
can be easily transformed from a virtue into a vice. 
Belfast is altogether too much inclined to take its 
ease in its commercial Zion, and to forget that only 
at their peril can cities as well as empires repudiate 


humility and make a fetish of the will-to-power. 
Criticism is essential to modify a mental bias of this 
kind, but outside criticism, as I have said, is dis- 
counted in advance as a device of the enemy. Criti- 
cism from the inside as yet scarcely exists, and those 
who are capable of giving it fear, with some reason, 
that it may be twisted to the detriment of their cause. 
This fear is naturally fostered by the people who 
know they have laid themselves open to criticism ; 
and it is a matter of common knowledge that some 
of those who deny most fiercely the existence of 
spots on the Ulster sun do so for the reason that their 
interest lies in preserving and extending the spots. 
For all his loyalty in public the Ulsterman in private 
does not lose his head. During the Carson campaign 
it was my fortune to be in close contact with some 
of the inner circle, and their blistering comments on 
many of the leaders, and most of the policies, would 
have suggested to a stranger that the movement was 
in imminent danger of collapse. Yet these politicians, 
though they decHned to wear blinkers themselves, 
would have been the first to denounce as a traitor any 
man who had the hardihood to deny publicly that all 
was for the best in the best of all possible provinces. 

Curiously enough, the augurs on each side can on 
occasion exchange a solemn wink. One of the 
features of the campaign was the struggle to influence 
English opinion. Liberal stalwarts were conveyed 
across the Channel by Nationalists, and harangued by 
eloquent orators in the intervals of sight- seeing 
and junketing. Unionists made a corner in the 
doubtful voters in English working-class consti- 
tuencies in the North and the Midlands. These were 
shipped over in droves, whisked round boycotted 
farms, the Dublin slums, and select areas in Belfast, 
and sent home with their heads buzzing from the 
effects of Irish whiskey and loyalist statistics. And 


both sides regarded their victims, as I may call them, 
with good-natured contempt as people who if they 
outlived Methuselah could never grasp the elements 
of the Irish question. I have heard a Nationalist and 
an Unionist agent matching stories of their ex- 
periences in shepherding these convoys that would 
have shocked their guests considerably. Again, 
before the war the Covenanter's trump-card was the 
backing of the Unionist Press. Every correspondent 
sent over with a brief to dispose of the Irish problem 
in a series of half a dozen articles manufactured out 
of material supplied by the Ulster Unionist Associa- 
tion, was hailed as a prophet from whose verdict 
there was no appeal. But when the Northcliffe Press 
began to flirt with the idea of an Irish settlement, 
and the rest of the Unionist journals joined in a chorus 
of approval, the Belfast papers, without as much as 
" by your leave," stole the Nationalist thunder, and 
denounced English dogmatism in Irish affairs with 
a wealth of indignation that the most perfervid Sinn 
Feiner might envy. 

Destiny may have made the English arbiters in the 
Ulster quarrel, but their qualifications for the task 
impress the Orange section as little as the Green. If 
it is not quite correct to say that Ulster's loyalty is 
conditional — she must cling to England so long as 
she declines to unite with Ireland — she is convinced 
that she alone upholds the true ideal. British voters 
may be led astray by the wiles of Radicals or 
Nationalists ; Ulster never wavers from the straight 
and narrow path. This view was delightfully epito- 
mised in the remark of a veteran Orangeman, who, 
at the time Devolution was in the air, heard the 
rumour that King Edward was not unfavourably 
inclined to the scheme. " Well, well," said he, more 
in sorrow than in anger, " I had always my doubts 
that he wasn't quite loyal." 


If both Ulster parties react in the same fashion 
when England rubs them the wrong way, they display 
as Sigsimst franc-tireurs and unauthorised combatants 
the freemasonry of professional soldiers. Sir Horace 
Plunkett — to whom we owe the saying " a man in 
Ireland without a party is like a dog in a tennis- 
court " — had the melancholy satisfaction of proving 
the truth of his own epigram when, on suspicion of a 
weakening in his opposition to Home Rule, the 
Ulster Unionists, who for years had been calling on 
the Nationalists to bow down to him as the ideal 
Irish statesman, bluntly told him to get back to his 
milk-cans and churns, and leave politics to those who 
understood them.* There was an even more glaring 
instance in the early days of the war when some 
well-intentioned folk sought to organise in Belfast a 
Home Defence Corps on the English model, free from 
any tinge of politics. The Unionists immediately 
declared that the proper place for any man who had 
not signed the Covenant was not in some " fancy '* 
corps but in the Irish National Volunteers ; the 
Nationalists were equally insistent that if anyone 
outside their organisation wanted to shoulder a rifle 
he should do so as an Ulster Volunteer. One is 
sometimes tempted to think that the paupers in 
Lady Gregory's comedy, who wrangle so venomously 
and yet are not happy away from one another, 
symbolise perfectly the spirit of political Ulster. 

The Carson crusade had one result, unforseen by 
its authors, which may well prove of more importance 
in the history of Ulster than the din of its drums and 

* Sir Horace Plunkett' s recent declaration in favour of 
Dominion Home Rule has led the Carsonite Press to label 
him " Ulster's inveterate enemy " ; and the Belfast Newsletter, 
the official organ of Orangeism, denounces the founder of the 
co-operative movement as a " mischievous agitator '* who 
will not " allow the Irish people to settle down to industry." 


tramplings. If politically even its admirers would 
scarcely claim it as a liberalising force, socially it has 
served as a liberating agency by giving the younger 
generation an opportunity of asserting itself. In 
his amusing caricature of Sir Edward Carson, con- 
tributed to the series " Irishmen of To-day," Mr. St. 
John Ervine denounced the Ulster movement as one 
wholly dominated by old men. The comment is true 
as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. After 
all, it was no more unnatural that the opposition to 
the third Home Rule Bill should be led by veterans 
who had resisted the Gladstonian measures than that 
the commanders of the British Expeditionary Force 
in August, 1914, should have been officers who had 
made their mark in the Boer war. The dominance of 
age is by no means a phenomenon peculiar to Ulster ; 
it is the rule throughout the other provinces as well, 
and its existence furnishes another proof against the 
** two nations " theory. Pagan Ireland named its 
heaven " Tir-na-n'Og," or the Land of Youth ; 
latter-day Ireland was long accustomed to act as if 
it believed that the sole chance of realising heaven 
upon earth was to give to grey hairs authority and 
prestige equal to that exercised by the Elder States- 
men of Japan. In rural Ireland an unmarried son, 
whatever his age, is almost as completely under the 
control of his parents as if he were a schoolboy ; 
and I have known of a woman of thirty who was 
ordered by her father to leave a place where she was 
engaged as housemaid to become one of a gang of 
potato lifters in Scotland. She abhorred the idea, 
as well she might, for a negro slave on a cotton 
plantation need not envy an Irish migratory 
labourer ; but when her mistress urged her to obey 
her own instincts and refuse to make the sacrifice, 
she was as outraged as if she had been asked to 
commit a crime. 


The revolt of the new generation against the 
supremacy of the old, which has become the stock 
theme of the later English dramatists, is still on the 
other side of the Irish Sea a revolutionary doctrine 
almost as subversive as Bolshevism. A man's duty 
is not only to do what his parents wish, but to think 
as they think, not necessarily because it is right, but 
because it is a command. It was seriously urged 
during the conscription agitation by no less a man 
than Mr. Standish O'Grady, the father of the Irish 
Literary Movement, that compulsory service should 
be welcomed because it would enable the youth of 
Ireland to break down parental tyranny. Men who 
hold very different views on politics from Mr. Stan- 
dish O'Grady can be heard nowadays declaring that 
what he hailed as an unspeakable boon, and what 
they profess to fear as a prelude to the collapse of 
the fabric of society, has already come to pass with 
the emergence of Sinn Fein. In every election 
complaints are rife of mutinous sons and daughters 
who threaten to leave their fathers' fields untilled 
and cattle untended unless they will join in supporting 
the Republican candidates. It is difficult as yet to say 
in what degree the victory of Sinn Fein represents a 
triumph of youth over crabbed age, and whether the 
clash of opinion will affect other than political issues. 

In the North, indeed, there has been no hint of a 
division of opinion ; young Ulster talks exactly as 
old Ulster did, except that the note of its war-cries 
is even fiercer and more uncompromising. Yet in the 
Carson campaign young men count for a good deal 
more than they did six or seven years ago, and are 
gradually becoming aware of their own power. Had 
the movement developed along the orthodox political 
lines of argument and intrigue, age might have held 
undisputed possession of the tiller. But when it 
came to camping in mud and rain with the Ulster 


Volunteers, or careering round the country on a 
motor bicycle with a load of smuggled rifles, fifty and 
upwards with rheumatic joints had to give way to 
twenty-five. As yet twenty-five has been content to 
follow, but it is growing steadily more conscious of 
its ability no less than its right to lead ; and should 
it take over control, it is by no means certain that it 
will be satisfied to keep in the well-marked rut which 
its elders were content to tread. 

The effect of the political upheaval is even more 
marked in the case of women. In the mass the 
working women of Belfast have always been fanatical 
partisans who take religious and political differences 
quite as seriously as their fathers and brothers, and 
give them a more personal application. It is notorious 
that most of the quarrels that lead to baton charges 
and broken heads are hatched bj^ women in their 
workrooms. At seasons when feeling runs high it is 
the pleasant custom of members of rival parties to 
ease the strain of labour by chanting the war-songs 
of their sides, and taunts and challenges rise in a 
shrill crescendo above the din of machinery. In- 
evitably these verbal skirmishes develop into personal 
encounters after the mills and factories have closed, 
with the result that the male relatives of the com- 
batants are called out to avenge injuries and insults 
to their women-folk. When the battle is joined with 
paving-stones and iron bolts, the women are not 
content to abide at home in prayer for the safety 
of their champions. Their shawls are an oriflamme in 
the thickest of the fighting, and their high-pitched 
voices hurling gibes and recriminations goad their 
opponents to madness. Anyone who has seen a mob 
of Belfast mill-doffers worked up to boiling point 
has no difficulty in understanding the devastating 
furyl'that animated the tricoteuses of the French 


By contrast the middle-class woman, who looked 
on manual labour as a degradation, has Icept 
flying in Belfast the flag of Victorian respectability 
long after it was hauled down from what had been 
its strongest citadels. As her male relations shouted 
" no surrender," so she murmured " be ladylike," 
with even more earnestness than Uriah Heep's 
mother urged him to "be 'umble." And being 
" ladylike " means being colourless ; it is less an 
appeal to do the right things than an exhortation to 
refrain from doing anything definite for fear it might 
prove to be wrong. This may appear to some as an 
ideal of wise passiveness much needed in our hustling 
age, but unfortunately the passiveness is usually 
about problems that matter. A girl who entertains 
views that do not square with orthodox opinion, 
whether those views are as revolutionary as a dis- 
belief in the value of church-going or as harmless as 
a preference for the novels of Mr. Wells over those 
of Miss Barclay, is sure to find herself labelled a " new 
woman," that forgotten bogey of the last century 
which still haunts the imagination of dear old ladies 
in Belfast parlours. These questions, it is assumed, 
have been decided, or Avill be decided, by some 
mysterious tribunal, whose verdict it is the duty of 
women to accept and enfof'ce as if it were a decree pro- 
claimed from Sinai. In politics the correct thing was, 
and is, to hold the opinions of one's men-folk. A woman 
might be as narrowly bigoted as she pleased and no 
one thought any the worse of her, but if she sought 
reasons for the faith she professed, she was regarded 
with something of the suspicion which good Presby- 
terians reserve for members of their creed who ask 
for proofs of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. 
In practice active participation in politics was up till 
recently the monopoly of ladies of title on the one hand 
and working- women on the other. The duty of the 


middle -classes was to contribute a decorative effect 
at public meetings, and on occasion to canvas for the 
Unionist candidates in elections. To thrust them- 
selves more prominently into the limelight would 
have been regarded not only as presumptuous but 
" unladylike," though, strangely enough, a duchess 
or a marchioness gained prestige instead of losing 
caste by such performances. 

When the Carson movement began it was taken 
for granted that women, as always in the past, would 
be content to remain in the background. The 
organisers had framed their plans solely with an eye 
to the male population. There was no place for 
women in the Ulster Volunteers or the Unionist 
Clubs, and they w^ere expressly excluded from the 
Ulster Covenant. But women were not satisfied thus 
to be cold-shouldered. Before many weeks they 
were squibbing miniature rifles on the ranges, batta- 
lions of women signallers were flag-wagging from 
dawn to dusk, and if they w^ere not permitted to sign 
the Covenant they made amends by drawing up an 
equally vehement declaration of their own. The 
enthusiasm was genuine beyond a doubt, but some 
old-fashioned Tories, however much they welcomed 
it in theor}^ were inclined ,to look askance at it in 
practice. They discerned behind this departure not 
only the driving force of Unionism, but the mailed fist 
of militant Feminism ; and cynics who remembered 
the variegated abuse that had been hurled at 
Suffragist crusaders in Ulster found rich entertain- 
ment in the spectacle of these champions of the 
*' ladylike " woman taking to their bosoms legions 
of armed amazons. 

Since the war women in Belfast, as elsewhere, have 
been marching fast and far tow^ards new horizons. 
Munition w^ork, in particular, has taught them more 
about Labour than they could have gleaned from a 

The northern mind 293 

lifelong attendance at political meetings. Women 
who have encountered foremen at first liand, and 
learned by hard experience the manoeuvres by which 
en)ployers keep down wages to a proper level, can be 
heard to-day using language which not so long ago 
they would have denounced as the blasphemous 
heresies of Syndicalism. It remains to be seen whether 
women of this type will be willing to return to their 
old groove, and accept with the same unquestioning 
faith the orthodox formulas of their class. Personally 
I have a suspicion that however thoroughly the 
problem of demobilisation may be carried out in a 
material sense, intellectually there will be no reversion 
to the old standard. Women have tasted the sweets 
of liberty of action and liberty of thought, and the 
shocked, if muffled, protests that are beginning to 
be heard from the dowagers and duennas of the old 
tradition are to me the best proof that the youthful 
generation will not readily abandon its new privileges. 
There is nothing wrong with the Ulsterwoman's 
intelligence except the fact that up till lately she was 
forbidden to exercise it on serious problems. Some 
of these problems circumstances have compelled her 
to tackle for herself, and I believe that the experience 
has created an appetite which will lead her in the 
future to explore on her own account still more 
difficult paths. If her energies, which have hitherto 
frothed to little purpose in a febrile enthusiasm 
about the frills and trimmings of life, are directed to 
other ends, I have no doubt that the conclusions to 
which she will be led are more likely to shock than to 
gratify those to whom she still looks up with awe 
and admiration. One of the great barriers to change 
in Ulster has been the intellectual obscurantism 
which its women were taught to worship as a virtue. 
Altogether unwittingly Sir Edward Carson released 
forces which helped to break down the rigidity of 


mind favourable to the triumph of obscurantism, 
and the process begun by him has been accelerated 
by the developments of the last four years. There 
may be no catastrophic upheaval, for things change 
slowly in Ulster : but I for one shall be greatly sur- 
prised if the new generation of Ulstermen and women 
is content to meet the demand not of Nationalist 
Ireland alone, but the challenge of democracy every- 
where, with no response save the blank and stupid 
formula, " We won't have it." 

Date Due 


fu- 'I n ^ < , ^ 

Dwi di i,9 

liiKi n ^ 

* 0007 

JUL IB '65 



MAY 2 5 ^33 


') 7 

OCT 1 / 


NOV - 1 201 



>/ V 


3 9031 01646379 6 




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